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ST. LOUIS -- Manager Tony La Russa rejoined the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday after missing six games to be treated for shingles, and quickly switched around the lineup card.

"Everything's better," La Russa said before the Cardinals began a four-game homestand with the first of two games against Philadelphia. "I'm just going to take the improvement, keep going and quit talking about it."

The 66-year-old La Russa was on the field two hours before the first pitch with a fungo bat in hand. He still had swelling, but his appearance had improved.

La Russa immediately made his presence known, shifting several players in their defensive positions. Three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols moved from first base to third base, Lance Berkman went from right field to first base, Allen Craig switched from third base to right field and Nick Punto slid from third base to second base.

Pujols started at third base for the first time since Sept. 23, 2002. He played two innings at third base on May 1 at Atlanta after starting third baseman David Freese was injured.

Center fielder Colby Rasmus was not in the lineup for the second day while suffering from a stomach ailment.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he had a bout of shingles in the early 1990s while managing in the minor leagues.

"Yeah, I can feel for him," Manuel said. "It was rough. It's very, very, very uncomfortable."

The Cardinals were 2-4 on their road trip during La Russa's absence and were swept in a three-game weekend series at Cincinnati.

La Russa has been slowed by swelling on the right side of his face that nearly shut his eye. He went to the Mayo Clinic in Arizona last week and later returned to St. Louis.

The manager's biggest regret was not getting treated right away.

"I just wish I'd taken pain medicine," La Russa said. "I went through all that agony for nothing."

La Russa said he spent much of his time away from the team at his Busch Stadium office, and watched all of the games on television. Bench coach Joe Pettini served as acting manager while La Russa was away, and the manager had no complaints.

"I can see where second guesses come, it looks so easy," La Russa said. "I never had a problem. The club was well taken-care of, in every facet."

La Russa also approved of pitcher Kyle Lohse's manager impersonation taking out the lineup card at two of the games on the trip.

"I saw the jersey and then I recognized him right away," La Russa said. "I really appreciated the gesture."

Before La Russa's lineup switch, Pujols said he sustained only a bruised wrist when hit by a pitch at Cincinnati on Sunday. La Russa said he had no problem with the pitch from Francisco Cordero, which incited the Cardinals' dugout.

"You could tell it wasn't a purpose pitch, you're not going to put him on base to pitch to Matt (Holliday) and Lance (Berkman)," La Russa said. "Anytime it's up there it scares me, even if we do it."


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