ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 19: Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals holds his wrist after a collision with Wilson Betemit #24 of the Kansas City Royals at Busch Stadium on June 19, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
FOX's Ken Rosenthal tweets:
Cardinals' Pujols out 4 to 6 weeks with small fracture in wrist.
The St. Louis Cardinals twitter feed elabortates:
BREAKING: Albert Pujols has a non-displaced fracture of his left radius (forearm). He will likely be sidelined 4-6 weeks.
**END OF UPDATE**
The Cardinals now have yet another hole in their lineup due to injury--a three-time MVP sized hole. The lineup that started Opening Day against the San Diego Padres has been missing key players for large chunks of time all season. In terms of position players, it has most notably missed third baseman David Freese, who begins a rehab stint with Triple-A Memphis tonight in Des Moines against the I-Cubs, and Silver Slugger Matt Holliday, who only just recently returned from a hamstring injury that landed him on the disabled list. Pujols had heated up with the Midwestern weather, helping to fill the voids left by Freese and Holliday in his uniquely Pujolsian way. Now, for the first time in his career, the Cardinals will have to attempt to fill in for their once-in-a-generation franchise player over an extended period of time.
The historic nature of Pujols's first ten seasons has been well-documented. In traditional baseball stats, no player has ever started his career with ten consecutive seasons of at least a .300 batting average, at least 30 homers, and at least 100 RBI. One of the relatively unsung facets of Pujols's remarkable consistency has been his remarkable good health. In order to tally the benchmark seasonal counting stat totals that he has, Pujols had to be in the lineup. And he was. Pujols has totaled 700 PA three times, never dug into the batter's box less than 634 times in a given season, and averaged 678 PA per season through his first ten.
Since breaking into the big-leagues in 2001, Pujols has lost a grand total of 43 days to injury and never more than 19 in a season. It is likely that Pujols will surpass his highest single-season total for days missed to injury, if not more than double that total. A 2011 baseball card back that is as near-perfect as a baseball card back could be will give way to a 2012 card with a 2011 stat line reflecting a slow start and an injury that halts a statistical recovery fueled by the great Pujols hitting like the great Pujols.
It remains to be seen how the club will shuffle its roster, batting order, and defensive formation in the wake of the Pujols injury. The most likely shift seems to be the one that took place yesterday with Lance Berkman moving to first base and some combination of Jon Jay, Andrew Brown, and Allen Craig (once he returns from the DL) receiving the bulk of the playing time in right field. One other possibility, though less likely, is that Mark Hamilton, he of the .385/.504/.538/1.042/.468 wOBA line in Memphis, will again board the Memphis Shuttle and allow Tony La Russa maximum flexibility as he attempts to generate runs in Pujols's absence. The lineup will likely see Holliday move up to the third slot and Berkman batting cleanup as he did during Holliday's DL stay. Whether Rasmus moves back down to the fifth spot in the order remains to be seen. Most certainly Freese's rehab assignment and return to St. Louis just became even more important than previously thought.
With Pujols hitting the DL, the Cardinals have now utilized this roster categorization more times in 2011 than the club did in all of 2010. In a season that could go down as "The Year of the Injury," it is a testament to the players and the coaches that this team sits tied atop the National League Central today. That due credit being given, there is little doubt that losing Pujols for a prolonged stretch will prove a stiffer test than any yet presented this season.