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Shortstop David Eckstein will not be available for the New York series and could land on the DL retroactive to Saturday. After their three-game series in New York, the Cardinals will play 22 of their final 36 games at home and will have no games against teams that currently have winning records.

Eckstein to heal from a strained left oblique muscle, an injury suffered in a home-plate collision with Cubs catcher Michael Barrett on Friday.

After Sunday's final game of the Cubs series, Eckstein returned to St. Louis to be examined by the team medical supervisor, Dr. George Paletta. The Cardinals open a series at Shea Stadium on Tuesday night, but trainer Barry Weinberg said if Eckstein were out only seven to 10 days, that would be a best-case scenario.

Likely as not, Eckstein will be placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Saturday.

"I worry about David rushing back, just because of the type of player and personality (he is) more than anything," Weinberg said.

Eckstein is trying to maintain a posture of patience. "I've talked to some guys who've had it, and I know it's something I have to be careful with," he said. "If I come back too soon and (the injury) comes back, we're talking three to six weeks. Then you're into late September or into October."

The club has discussed signing infielder Jose Vizcaino, designed for assignment by San Francisco, or bringing up shortstop John Nelson from Triple-A Memphis. But the more immediate move probably would be to bring back outfielder John Rodriguez, optioned to Memphis when the Cardinals needed an extra pitcher 10 days ago.

Aaron Miles, normally a second baseman, has played adequately at shortstop the last two games, and infielder/outfielder Scott Spiezio has been taking balls at short. Second baseman Ronnie Belliard is another option at shortstop.

NOTES

--CF Jim Edmonds, battling post-concussion syndrome, had a negative reaction to making two plate appearances Saturday, and manager Tony La Russa sat him for the start of Sunday's series finale in Chicago. Edmonds came on to play center field in the ninth inning. His status is day-to-day.

--LHP Mark Mulder, recovered from a shoulder impingement, will make his first start in more than two months Wednesday at New York. Partially because of Mulder's erratic performances in his last few rehabilitation starts, pitching coach Dave Duncan said, "I don't think we can expect miracles right away. We're hoping he gives us five innings of competitive baseball."

--OF Chris Duncan, son of the pitching coach, is the hottest Cardinals hitter, going 14 for his last 24 (.583) with four homers over his last six games. "I'm very proud of Chris' professionalism and his approach to the game," father Dave Duncan said. "He just goes about things the right way."

--The Cardinals are on target to have five players with 20 or more homers: 1B Albert Pujols (36), 3B Scott Rolen (18), CF Jim Edmonds (18), RF Juan Encarnacion (17) and LF Chris Duncan (14).


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