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Groin pain may put Geovany Soto on DL

St. Louis Cardinals Lance Berkman is out second as Chicago Cubs shortstop StarlCastro (13) watches his throw first after Yadier

St. Louis Cardinals Lance Berkman is out at second as Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro (13) watches his throw to first after Yadier Molina hit into a double play during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 10, 2011, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

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Updated: June 12, 2011 12:36AM

The Cubs’ efforts to get their season on track took another hit Tuesday night when catcher Geovany Soto strained his groin blocking a pitch in the dirt in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Soto is scheduled for an MRI this morning and could be headed to the disabled list. Class AAA catcher Welington Castillo, who made his major-league debut last season, was pulled from AAA Iowa’s game after one at-bat Tuesday night in anticipation of a possible need in Chicago.

“He did the splits to block a ball in the first inning, and the splits were not good,” manager Mike Quade said of Soto. “We’ll hope for the best, but it’s a tough place to be, squatting, when your groin’s bad.”

Falling Starlin

On the anniversary of his three-error Wrigley Field debut Tuesday, struggling shortstop Starlin Castro was dropped to seventh in the order — the first time this season he hasn’t hit first, second or third.

‘‘It’s about protecting a kid and trying to help a club, trying to get him out of a bit of a mess,’’ Quade said of the Sports Illustrated cover boy who was 2-for-25 this month before going 2-for-4 with an RBI Tuesday. ‘‘I don’t think four or five games of struggling is a concern, but when it gets to be a week or two, then you’ve got to take a look at things.’’

Castro was one of the hottest hitters in baseball until assuming a share of the No. 3 spot in the order, where he went 6-for-38 (.158). But Quade said that didn’t do anything to affect Castro’s performance.

‘‘I didn’t see anything different with the approach,’’ Quade said. ‘‘I see a difference in the way the opposition is attacking him at times.’’

La Russa ailing

The Cardinals opened their series against the Cubs without ailing manager Tony La Russa — and unsure about when he’ll rejoin the team after undergoing tests and treatment in Arizona for an infection.

‘‘It’s something that we all understand,’’ Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols said. ‘‘His health is more important than a baseball game. He takes care of his business, and hopefully we can have him back soon.’’

La Russa, 66, was diagnosed with shingles after battling the infection around his right eye for weeks, the swelling more recently nearly closing his eye.

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said he didn’t have a timeline for La Russa’s return.

‘‘This has been a long ordeal for him,’’ Cards shortstop Ryan Theriot said. ‘‘He’s really battled and pushed through it. But he’s got to get well. He’s been hurting, he really has.’’

‘‘I hope it’s a fixable situation quickly,’’ Cubs manager Mike Quade said. ‘‘But his influence is still with this club, whether he’s here or not.’’

Dougie Davis eyes

Veteran left-hander Doug Davis was limited to a pitch count in the 60s on Tuesday for Class AAA Iowa as the Cubs prepare him for the possibility of joining the big-league club Saturday for a start on short rest.

Davis is an option the Cubs will consider for the fifth-starter slot filled by reliever James Russell since Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner went on the DL the first week of the season.

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