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After injury, Albert Pujols-to-Cubs even more remote

Updated: June 21, 2011 10:22AM

Whatever Albert Pujols’ broken forearm means to the St. Louis Cardinals’ chances of reaching the playoffs this year, consider it one more likely reason he won’t reach the Cubs as a free agent next year.

His projected contract demands already cost-prohibitive, the injury casts at least doubt on his fitness for a long-term deal, even if he returns in decent form after four to six weeks on the disabled list.

Anything short of that could start dropping his negotiating strength toward the Cubs’ appetite (albeit, requiring a long drop). But that also would suggest damaged goods.

Cubs officials, some of whom shared hugs and handshakes with Pujols when the Cardinals visited Wrigley Field last month, won’t discuss specifics about Pujols or their free-agent plans.

For now, the Cards slugger’s injury, suffered in a collision at first base Sunday, sends shock waves through the National League ­Central race.

‘‘It stinks,’’ Cubs manager Mike Quade said. ‘‘To be honest with you, as a competitive guy, I just wish you could guarantee every club no injuries. Let’s go play and see where we’re at.

‘‘I feel bad for him and bad for them. Maybe that’s an opportunity for us.’’

The Cubs have at least a three-game winning streak or two to go before it’s particularly relevant to them.

Still teaching the kid

Quade talked to second-year shortstop Starlin Castro on Monday after Castro overplayed a potential double play on a tapper in front of the plate and failed to get even one out by missing second base on the would-be pivot Sunday.

‘‘It was a time to say, we need to do this or need to do that, but also to make sure we explain why,’’ Quade said. ‘‘When that time comes again, we’ll see what happens. There’s just no substitute for ­experience.’’

Byrd update

Center fielder Marlon Byrd, who has been on the DL for the last month since that horrifying beaning in Boston, might be ready to start a minor-league rehab assignment next week.

But he still might be weeks away from being activated at that point, team officials say, because of the nature of the injury.

Pleasure trips

Quade calls this week’s stretch of six consecutive games playing by American League rules ‘‘a pleasure’’ because of the extra hitter, the ability to sit guys defensively and the lack of offensive considerations influencing his pitching decisions.

‘‘There’s plenty to like about it for the short time we do it,’’ said Quade, who used Alfonso Soriano as a designated hitter Monday and plans to use Aramis Ramirez in that role tonight.


For the record: No, Carlos Zambrano will not DH for the Cubs during the Sox series or over the weekend in Kansas City, Quade said.

◆ Quade said he won’t use the day off Thursday to skip anybody in the rotation.

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