Albert Pujols' Injury Return Could Happen Weeks Ahead Of Schedule

In a surprising development, it looks like Albert Pujols' return from a fractured wrist could come far earlier than anticipated, perhaps as soon as this Tuesday. The timing would be fantastic for the Cardinals, who are in a dogfight with the Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds for first place in the N.L. Central.

Pujols, who fractured his wrist on a collision at first base on June 19 against the Royals, has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 20 and was initially expected to be out for at least four weeks. While Pujols was coy about his imminent return, saying he still had four weeks to go, he didn't rule out the possibility of suiting up on Tuesday, the first day he is eligible to come off the DL.

"It can be tomorrow," Pujols said on Monday. "If it's not, then whenever the time comes, it will be the right time to play."

Pujols appears to be better than other players even when it comes to returning from injuries, although it's also possible he's being unduly optimistic about his return date - players often are. He will have a doctor's appointment Tuesday morning, and after that, we should have a better sense of whether he will be able to return that night with the Cards face off against the Reds. 

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa says the upcoming All-Star break, which would give Pujols a few additional days to recover if he needed it, will not keep him from play Pujols if he's ready.

Pujols is hitting .279 this year with a .355 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage.

Lance Berkman has been playing first base in Pujols' absence. Berkman would shift back to right field if Pujols were to return, probably taking some playing time from Jon Jay. Pujols had been hitting like crazy in June before his injury.

For more on Pujols and the Cardinals, check out Viva El Birdos and SB Nation St. Louis.

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