PHOENIX -- Having cleared all running tests, first baseman Lance Berkman (left calf strain) said he expects to be activated from the disabled list on Friday.
Berkman, who began jogging again late last week, increased that work to full sprints on Tuesday. He felt no pull in his calf muscle and repeated the sprinting work again on Wednesday. If Berkman does come off the DL on Friday, the stint will have lasted 22 days. Berkman missed 21 days with the same injury in 2009.
When Berkman returns, it will mark the first time this season that the Cardinals have been at full strength with their position players. Skip Schumaker, Allen Craig and Berkman all spent various lengths of time on the DL through these first five weeks of the season.
That also means that manager Mike Matheny will have to get clever in divvying up playing time. The Cardinals want to keep Craig regularly involved, though that becomes more difficult when Berkman returns to his place at first base.
"It hasn't defined itself," Matheny said of Craig's potential playing time. "It's a good problem to have. We have that kind of roster where we're going to have to give guys days [off]. It's good to have that depth."
Berkman is not expected to play every day immediately upon returning, so that should open up some playing for Craig initially. Craig can also slide into the outfield when Matheny opts to give any one of his starting outfielders a break.
Molina aims for quick return from bruised hand
PHOENIX -- A day after a 96 mph fastball struck him on his left hand behind the plate, Yadier Molina is cautiously optimistic that he'll be cleared to return when the Cardinals open a series at home on Friday.
Additional looks at X-rays confirmed that Molina did not suffer a bone fracture. His injury has been diagnosed as a bruised hand, and Molina provided an encouraging update when asked how he was feeling on Wednesday.
"It feels good today," Molina said. "Everything is looking good. Today it was feeling a lot better than yesterday."
Molina was not in the starting lineup on Wednesday and did not participate in batting practice. He'll rest again on Thursday -- a team off-day -- before testing his hand out on Friday.
"I was very concerned," manager Mike Matheny said. "It was good news that we didn't see a break and then today, him feeling better. We'll just see how he keeps responding to treatment."
Big names to be on hand for La Russa event
PHOENIX -- Friday's pregame ceremony to retire the number of former manager Tony La Russa is set to begin at 7 p.m. CT, prior to the Cardinals' series opener against Atlanta. The festivities have pushed back the scheduled first pitch to 7:25 pm.
La Russa's No. 10 will be the 12th number retired by the Cardinals and the first since 2010. He retired after the 2011 season and is the winningest manager in franchise history. More than two dozen baseball personalities will be in attendance to honor La Russa.
Those include Mike Shannon (who will emcee the event), Dennis Eckersley, Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Wally Haas, Jerry Reinsdorf, Roland Hemond, Tom Seaver, Joe Torre, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Matt Morris, David Eckstein, Brian Jordan, Jim Edmonds, Andy Benes, Alan Benes, Walt Jocketty, Dave Duncan, Barry Weinberg, Carole Buck (wife of the late Jack Buck), Red Schoendienst, Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher.
Owner Bill DeWitt Jr., team president Bill DeWitt III, general manager John Mozeliak, manager Mike Matheny, hitting coach Mark McGwire, as well as players Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Yadier Molina will also be a part of the ceremony.
Separate of Friday's celebration at Busch Stadium, Nikco Sports, is marketing 2,012 limited edition baseballs autographed by La Russa. The baseballs are available for $99, and $37 of each sale will be donated to La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation.
These baseballs, which are available on a first-come basis, are available for purchase at Nikco Sports' website or by calling 1-800-345-2868.
Cards take look at top international prospect
PHOENIX -- Gustavo Cabrera, ranked by MLB.com as the top international prospect available this summer, recently worked out for the Cardinals at their academy in the Dominican Republic.
The workout occurred about two weeks ago and coincided with general manager John Mozeliak's trip to the Dominican Republic. Also in attendance were scouts and cross checkers from the organization.
Cabrera, 16, will be free to sign with any Major League organization on July 2, the start of the international signing period. The young outfielder has worked out for several clubs already and is expected to receive widespread interest this summer. He is also participating in the newly formed Dominican Prospect League, which organizes showcase opportunities for prospects.
Major League Baseball's new Basic Agreement, which was passed last December, established new spending guidelines for the international market. Teams can now spent up to $2.9 million for the 2012-13 signing period without being hit by penalties. Previously, there was no cap.
Mike Matheny has become the regular batting-practice pitcher for catcher Tony Cruz, and the Cardinals' manager is using those sessions to simulate game at-bats. That approach is different from the norm, but it's the best way, Matheny believes, to help Cruz stay sharp while not getting much playing time.
"I'm throwing tough pitches to him," Matheny said. "It's not a feel-good BP like most of the everyday players. I'm watching him and I'm seeing his swing path and everything looks real good. I consciously pitch differently."
The Cardinals-Mets game on June 3 has been selected by ESPN as its Sunday Night Game of the Week. The game time has been changed from 12:30 p.m. CT to 7:05 p.m. CT. Because of another programming conflict, that game will be televised on ESPN2.
On another programming note, Sunday's home game against the Braves has been picked up by TBS. First pitch is still scheduled for 1:15 p.m. CT. Also, note that Monday's start time (6:05 p.m. CT) is earlier than usual for a weeknight game. That change is the result of ESPN televising the game, which is against the Cubs.
The Cardinals had scored a first-inning run in a club-record eight straight games heading into Wednesday. Overall, St. Louis has tallied a run in the first inning in 15 of its first 30 games. The only other time the Cardinals plated a first-inning run in eight consecutive games was from July 12-23, 1986.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.