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Pujols back ahead of schedule; Jeter returns

Looks like some of the big names who have occupied so much space on our pages lately are making their way back onto the field. New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter rejoined the lineup for Independence Day. His performance at the plate didn't bring him any closer to 3,000 hits but he did come out of the game feeling good, perhaps the most important result for him on the night.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols was activated from the disabled list on Tuesday (the first day he was eligible to come off), although he's not in the starting lineup. He will be available to come off the bench. Given that his original timetable was projected to be four to six weeks, and Tuesday marks just past two weeks, it's safe to say he's ahead of schedule.

The hairline crack in his left distal radius appears to be healing well and Pujols has maintained that his wrist felt fine as soon as the day after the injury. While the bone will still be in the process of healing for some time, a decision to return him to play would not be made if the team was not convinced that his re-injury risk was low. The fact Pujols has been taking swings without discomfort is a positive sign. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Pujols has hit off a machine. While it may not be identical to facing a live pitcher, it does present a good test. Whether he will immediately produce remains to be seen but a shortened downtime only helps him in that regard, one reason a rehab assignment is not part of the equation. Naturally it would be best for his wrist if Pujols could avoid falling directly on it with his full weight, which seems unlikely to occur, especially for a first baseman. Barring some unusual event, his chances of remaining healthy should be very good.

Quick hits

New York Mets speedy sensation Jose Reyes hurt one of his wheels this weekend, leaving in the third inning of Saturday's game after experiencing discomfort in his left thigh. The good news is that the injury was reported to be only a Grade 1 strain, but anyone who has followed Reyes in the past knows that the hamstring has been his nemesis. In May 2009, Reyes suffered a significant hamstring injury that ultimately sidelined him for the remainder of the season. While this injury appears far less severe, Reyes is very clear that he will not return too soon this time around. While there has been no move to place him on the DL, if he does not show improvement within a few days, it could still happen.

• Another New York baseball superstar is also being talked about in the injury news. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera had pain in his right triceps area, just above the elbow, which was the reason given for him being unavailable Monday. Although Rivera acknowledged he had never before experienced this particular pain, ESPN New York reports Rivera also said, "I'm not concerned about it, I can tell you that. I'm not concerned at all." Admired for his consistency and his durability, Rivera does not often make this column. But he is 41 years old with more than a thousand innings under his belt. In other words, we're keeping a close eye on this.

• The Colorado Rockies had two key players suffer injuries over the holiday weekend. Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez hit the outfield wall Sunday at high speed and suffered a contusion to his right wrist and forearm. The team is calling him day-to-day for now, but just how long it takes for him to come back will depend on when he can swing a bat effectively. The Denver Post reports Gonzalez will not return until Thursday at the earliest.

• For at least Tuesday's game, Gonzalez will be joined on the sideline by shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who strained his right quadriceps Monday night while running down the first-base line. He has a history of significant quadriceps injury, suffering one just a few years ago, and while it appears this instance is not severe, he told the Post, "There was no sense in staying in to further injure myself." Expect the Rockies to play it cautiously if Tulowitzki has any lingering soreness, as they could keep him out for a few days.