ST. PETERSBURG -- Cardinals officials expressed increased optimism regarding superstar Albert Pujols on Saturday, but stopped short of projecting a return date for the slugger. Pujols has been out since June 19 because of a small fracture in the area of his left wrist.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on Saturday that improvement in Pujols' wrist will "likely" allow him to return for the club's first series after the All-Star break, July 15-17 at Cincinnati. The paper even allowed for the possibility of Pujols returning before the break, but reported that such an outcome is less probable.
General manager John Mozeliak acknowledged optimism regarding Pujols, saying that his recovery has progressed faster than expected. However, he was not comfortable targeting a much earlier return date for Pujols just yet. The initial estimate of six weeks for Pujols' recovery would have had him back on the roster on Aug. 1.
"As far as how he's feeling, I know he's feeling great," Mozeliak said. "I don't know what that translates to [as far as a return date]. ... But it does sound like he's on a faster pace."
Pujols was reevaluated on Friday, and the club was encouraged by the initial findings. However, Dr. George Paletta, the team's head physician, hasn't had a chance to go over the findings with the front office. That will happen on Monday or Tuesday, at which time a better read will be available.
Pujols will almost certainly not go on a Minor League rehabilitation assignment.
"He doesn't need it," manager Tony La Russa said.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.