Cards start Pujols at third base

Cards start Pujols at third base

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After first deciding to stay experimental with his infield lineup Monday, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa reconsidered and decided to go retro.

La Russa took Albert Pujols up on his offer and started the Gold Glove first baseman at third base - Pujols' first start at third since September 2002 and his first start at a position other than first base since 2003. La Russa's original lineup had Allen Craig starting at second base for the second time in his career. But after talking with Craig and recognizing the difficulty the novice second baseman would have turning the double play and the risk for injury, La Russa rewrote the lineup.

"I would have been uncomfortable with it, and now I don't have to be uncomfortable," La Russa said.

To make the new lineup fit, La Russa moved Lance Berkman to first base, Craig to right field, Nick Punto to second and Pujols to third.

Pujols had volunteered to play third base after seeing the original lineup. La Russa called it a defensive "upgrade" behind sinkerballer Jake Westbrook. Pujols played two innings at third earlier this season, and he made 89 starts there earlier in his career. His exposure to positions other than first base has been limited by a right (throwing) elbow that has required two operations since 2008 and still has a torn ligament.

La Russa wouldn't say whether the move was something he'd consider beyond Monday, and he dismissed a question whether throws put stress on Pujols' elbow.

"The elbow is in great shape," the manager said.

Pujols had his first fielding chance in the second inning, and in the sixth inning he darted in front of the shortstop to turn a key double play. In seventh he made a diving stop on a grounder to throw out Ben Francisco in the Cards' 3-1 victory over Philadelphia.

Said Pujols: "It's nothing new. Whatever the team needs."


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