By HAL PILGER
GATEHOUSE NEWS SERVICE
The St. Louis Cardinals ended the month of June with a distinction they would rather not have - an extensive list of players who already had become disabled this season.
Eight members of the Cardinals were on the D.L. entering weekend play, including five pitchers - JOSH KINNEY (right elbow surgery on March 23, 78 games missed); MARK MULDER (left shoulder surgery, March 23, 78 games); CHRIS CARPENTER (right elbow surgery, April 2, 77 games); BRADEN LOOPER (right shoulder strain, June 6, 14 games); and TYLER JOHNSON (left bicep, June 19, 11 games).
Three others still on the list as of Friday included outfielders PRESTON WILSON (right knee surgery May 6, 50 games) and JIM EDMONDS (lower back, May 16, 14 games), plus shortstop DAVID ECKSTEIN (lower back spasms, June 14, 16 games).
Eckstein and Looper appeared very close to returning, while Carpenter - out since his opening day start - worked three innings and threw 34 pitches on Wednesday in a simulated game at the Cardinals training complex in Jupiter, Fla.
Also disabled this season was catcher YADIER MOLINA, who was activated Thursday after missing 26 games with a non-displaced left wrist fracture suffered May 29.
Cardinals manager TONY LA RUSSA said Molina, before getting injured, "was playing as good as any catcher in baseball," noting while the backstop was batting .273 with one home run and 12 RBIs in 41 games, his defensive play and handling of the Cardinals pitching staff were vital contributions.
While some Cardinals players were getting healthy, another - infielder SCOTT SPIEZIO - was hospitalized Wednesday with an infection of his left index finger and received intravenous antibiotics for the condition. He remained in a New York hospital on Thursday and was expected to be released on Friday, but Cardinals general manager WALT JOCKETTY indicated Spiezio probably would return to St. Louis rather than rejoin the team for the weekend series in Cincinnati.
n CARDS QUIZ: When CHRIS DUNCAN belted his second pinch-hit home run of the season on June 16 at Oakland, it came with the bases loaded. When was the last time the Cardinals had a pinch-hit grand-slam? Answer below.
n SENT DOWN: To make room for Molina's return, the Cardinals outrighted catcher KELLY STINNETT to their Class AAA Memphis club. Since joining the Cardinals earlier this season, Stinnett was batting only .182 with one home run and four RBIs in 44 at-bats.
n SO LONG, STREAK: Outfielder SO TAGUCHI ended his career-high 18-game hitting streak in Wednesday night's rain-shortened loss at New York, going 0-for-3 with three ground-outs off winner TOM GLAVINE.
Taguchi hit .357 during his streak (25-for-70) and matched JUAN ENCARNACION's 18-gamer as the longest streaks by a St. Louis player this season. Molina had a 15-game hitting streak early this season.
n CLOSING TIME: Closer JASON ISRINGHAUSEN suffered only his second blown save in 16 chances Tuesday night at Shea Stadium - his first blown save since April 22 at Chicago.
Izzy's 1.72 ERA entering the weekend was second among Cards relievers (to RYAN FRANKLIN's 1.43) with 15 or more innings pitched. Izzy had been scored upon in just five of his 30 outings, and five times he had pitched more than an inning. He also had been used in 14 games that were not save situations
Isringhausen entered the weekend with 263 career saves and was 24th on baseball's all-time saves list.
n MILES MARKERS: Infielder AARON MILES had collected two or more hits in five of his last 10 starts entering weekend play. He had hits in 15 of the last 18 games he had appeared in, and he was batting .406 (26-for-64) with multi-hit games in seven of those contests.
n QUIZ ANSWER: Duncan's recent pinch-hit grand slam was the first for the Cardinals since BOBBY BONILLA blasted one during the 2001 season.
n END QUOTE: Starter ANTHONY REYES, quoted on mlb.com, after yielding just two hits and two runs but falling to 0-10 when Wednesday's game at New York ended after 5½ innings because of rain: "It's just my luck, I guess, right now. I guess now it's just kind of biting me."
Hal Pilger can be reached at 788-1548 or email@example.com.