March 21, 2012; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman (12) against the New York Mets during a spring training game at Roger Dean Stadium. (Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE)
First baseman Lance Berkman probably will miss the first three home games of the season this weekend because of a Grade 1 left calf strain, sustained when he was running out a triple Tuesday night in Cincinnati.
With a day off on Monday, Berkman could return to duty at home against Cincinnati on Tuesday.
An MRI exam taken on Thursday's off day found the Grade 1 strain, which is considered least severe, with a Grade 3 the most severe.
"There's not a huge tear in the muscle," Berkman said. "They said they're looking at Tuesday, which I think is more than realistic."
General manager John Mozeliak said: "Having an off day today and an off Monday offers us a little bit of protection."
Berkman had a similar injury in 2009 while with the Houston Astros. That strain eventually got worse as he attempted to play through it and he wound up on 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 probably will use rookie third baseman/first baseman Matt Carpenter and infielder Daniel Descalso at first base this weekend against Chicago.
Both have played there already this season, with Carpenter starting there on Wednesday and Descalso finishing up for Berkman on Tuesday.