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Cardinals eyeing Allen Craig as possible DH if they can beat Dodgers

By Scott Miller | Senior Baseball Columnist

ST. LOUIS – Surviving quite nicely so far in the absence of Allen Craig, the Cardinals continue to hold out hope that if they can advance to the World Series, Craig might be available as a pinch-hitter or even as a designated hitter.

The Cardinals medical staff has cleared him to increase his baseball activities, and he actually was in uniform before Game 2 of the National League Championship Sereis here Saturday.

“We'll take that day by day and start pushing him a little bit more,” Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. “Obviously, our focus will be the batter's box. We'll have to make sure his foot and ankle are stable.”

Craig missed the season's final 22 games with a left foot sprain in an oddly serious injury suffered as he was rounding first base in a game against Cincinnati on Sept. 4. At the time, Craig led the majors with a .454 batting average with runners in scoring position.

Over the past two seasons, Craig's batting average with RISP (.427) leads the majors, ranking even ahead of Miguel Cabrera (.376), who ranks second.

So yes, you can see why his return could boost the Cardinals. Matt Adams has been good at first base in his absence, but Craig is St. Louis' most productive hitter.

He's been hitting the ball off of a batting tee the past few days, and taking soft toss.

“The most optimistic view, of course, is that he could be available to DH,” Mozeliak said before Game 2 here when asked Craig's status if the Cardinals are able to defeat the Dodgers. “It's day by day. Every day is a new test, and if he keeps passing them. …”

Mozeliak said Craig's recovery has been about what doctors predicted, time-wise.

“My take all along is that the last thing we want to do is push him to where he has a major setback,” Mozeliak said. “Patience is critical.”

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