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Cardinals manager Mike Matheny heads to watch batting practice Thursday, entering the field at Busch Stadium for the first time as manager. The Cardinals face the Chicago Cubs in their home opener Friday with first pitch scheduled for 2:15 p.m.

Robert Cohen/Lee News Service

ST. LOUIS — First baseman Lance Berkman avoided the disabled list Thursday but will likely miss the next three games due to a Grade 1 calf strain, the club said Thursday.

Berkman suffered the strain legging out a triple during Tuesday night’s win over the Cincinnati Reds. He did not appear in Wednesday’s 4-3 loss and underwent a magnetic resonance imaging Thursday morning.

The exam found a strain of the left calf but did not assess it as severe enough to require a two-week shutdown. A Grade 1 strain is considered least severe, a Grade 3 the most severe.

“There’s not a huge tear in the muscle. They said they’re looking at Tuesday, which I think is more than realistic,” Berkman said.

“Having an off day today and an off Monday offers us a little bit of protection,” general manager John Mozeliak said.

Mozeliak wouldn’t rule out Berkman’s availability for this weekend’s series against the Chicago Cubs, but the vibe remains that such a scenario is extremely unlikely. The MRI offered a clearer framework for Berkman’s return.

Berkman experienced a similar injury in 2009 while with the Houston Astros. That strain eventually worsened as he attempted to play through it and required a trip to the disabled list.

“Is this something I can push through or is this something that keeps me down?” Berkman said. “They said you could push through it with some discretion. When I had this in ’09, it was at this stage and I tried to push through it. And that made it a lot worse, and I had to go on the DL. If I had taken care of it in the beginning I probably wouldn’t have had a problem with it.”

Manager Mike Matheny will likely use Matt Carpenter and Daniel Descalso at the position this weekend. Carpenter appeared there during Wednesday’s 4-3 loss and served as cleanup hitter. Descalso manned first base after Berkman’s removal from Tuesday’s game.

-- In other injury news: pitcher Chris Carpenter will likely perform a series of strength tests this weekend to determine whether he is ready to graduate to a throwing program.

Carpenter has been sidelined for more than three weeks due to shoulder weakness resulting from a nerve condition. Carpenter must regain a certain percentage of strength in the shoulder, particularly the rotator cuff, before returning to the mound.

When asked Thursday if Carpenter could become a candidate for the 60-day disabled list should the need for a roster spot arise, Mozeliak refused to discount the possibility. “But we’re not there yet, and that need hasn’t arisen.”



Cardinals home opener schedule

Here’s the rundown of major events leading up to Friday's home opener for the Cardinals against the Chicago Cubs:

10 a.m. — 1 p.m.: Cardinals official Opening Day Pre-Game Pep Rally, sponsored by Hardee’s: Pre-game pep rally in the Ballpark Village Lot, across from Busch Stadium (Clark Street and South Broadway.) Local band Trixie Delight will perform from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Fredbird will give away Opening Day tickets, autographed items and other prizes. Fans can get their picture taken for free at the Hardee’s Photo Booth, and visit the Hardee’s Mobile Diner where, with the purchase of a Combo Meal, they will receive an Opening Day T-shirt.

11:45 a.m.: Gates open; All fans with a ticket ages 21 and over will receive a magnet with the 2012 Cardinals schedule, compliments of Busch Beer.

1:30 p.m.:

-- Pre-game ceremonies begin with an appearance by the famed Budweiser Clydesdales.

-- Cardinals Hall-of-Famers will be introduced via a motorcade.

-- Video tribute to the 2011 World Champions.

-- Cardinals will escort the last four World Championship trophies: Mike Shannon (’67), Tommy Herr (’82), David Eckstein, Jim Edmonds (’06) and Tony La Russa, Dave Duncan (’11).

-- The World Champion St. Louis Cardinals via motorcade.

-- The family of U.S. Army Specialist Jeffrey L. White, Jr. will raise the 2011 World Championship banner in left field.

-- American Bald Eagle flight, courtesy of the World Bird Sanctuary of St. Louis.

-- Color Guard – The U.S. Marine Corps

-- A moment of silence to former Cardinals pitcher Bob Forsch

-- Shannon Magrane, singer and Season 11 contestant on American Idol, will sing the national anthem.

-- U.S. Air Force Flyover

-- Ceremonial first pitch.

2:15 p.m.: Play ball.

Contact Strauss at or (314) 340-8371.


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