Pujols returns to fold at DH in finale

Pujols returns to fold at DH in finale

DETROIT -- The Cardinals activated Albert Pujols from the 15-day disabled list on Thursday, a week sooner than originally anticipated. Pujols was in the starting lineup for Thursday afternoon's game against the Tigers, batting third and playing designated hitter.

Pujols had been targeting a Thursday return for several days, so his insertion in the lineup came as little surprise. The corresponding roster move, however, was somewhat unexpected.

To make room for Pujols on the active roster, St. Louis placed left-handed reliever Randy Flores on the disabled list. Flores has soreness and swelling in his left ankle, and the team is officially calling the condition peroneal tendinitis.

"It swelled up on me a little bit after a run a few days ago," Flores said. "And after the game [Wednesday] when I came in, there was swelling in there. I wanted to see how it reacted today. From what I understood, it was a deal that could be a few days to let it calm down, and we might not have a few days."

Flores has been struggling lately, but he drew no parallel between the injury and his slump.

"You had a few games where I was pitching a little too careful for the situation," he said. "It had nothing to do with my leg. I just wasn't getting the job done."

Both Flores and manager Tony La Russa said they do not expect Flores' injury to take a full 15 days. The reliever likely would be ready to pitch in about a week.

"It looks like he's going to be out five to seven days, so we just disabled him," La Russa said. "We can't pitch short."

More to the point, the Cardinals didn't want to ply with even more limitation on their position-player roster than they already have. St. Louis had only 12 active hitters before adding Pujols to the roster, and Pujols will be somewhat limited for a day or two. So if they had sent a hitter out, the squeeze would be even tighter.

It is expected that Pujols will not serve as the designated hitter for more than a day or two. Having him in that spot on Thursday, meanwhile, necessitated a highly unusual lineup for St. Louis.

Troy Glaus played first base rather than third, a move that La Russa regards as giving Glaus a "half-day off." Glaus would have been the DH if Pujols had played first base. Aaron Miles took Glaus' spot at third, with a middle infield made up of Adam Kennedy at second and Brendan Ryan at shortstop.

Pujols missed a total of 13 games due to a left calf strain, which he originally sustained in early June in Washington, then aggravated on June 10 in Cincinnati. It was the second DL stint of his eight-year career. At the time of the injury, most forecasts called for the slugger to miss at least three weeks.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.