Nick Punto might need season-ending elbow surgery

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Bad news for the first-place Cardinals.

Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch brings word that 33-year-old utilityman Nick Punto is headed back to the disabled list and could be facing season-ending elbow surgery.

Punto has spent more time on rehabbing injuries this season than he’s spent on the active roster, and he air-mailed an awkward throw from third base in the late innings of Saturday’s win against the Reds.

The former Twin has been fairly productive when healthy, batting .267/.343/.389 with eight extra-base hits and 12 RBI in 90 at-bats. And manager Tony La Russa has used him frequently as a defensive replacement for some of the Cardinals’ flimsier infielders.

Albert Pujols launched the Rebirds back into sole possession of first place on Saturday in Cincinnati. The Cards are one game up in a weak division and boast an impressive offense. But this is a setback.

Anthony Rizzo to wear walking boot for five to seven days

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Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo suffered what appeared to be an awful injury during Sunday’s game against the Pirates, twisting his ankle while attempting to field a bunt. An MRI revealed that he has a lateral sprain of his right ankle, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Rizzo will wear a walking boot for five to seven days before being reevaluated.

Given that there are only two weeks left in the regular season, it seems doubtful Rizzo would be able to return to aid the Cubs’ NL Wild Card chase. The club entered Monday leading the second Wild Card by a game over the Brewers.

Rizzo, 30, is batting .289/.404/.516 with 26 home runs, 93 RBI, and 88 runs scored in 592 plate appearances on the year. Victor Caratini started at first base for Monday’s game against the Reds. The Cubs may also use Ian Happ, Willson Contreras, and Jonathan Lucroy at first base while Rizzo is out.