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Edmonds returns to starting lineup

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ST. LOUIS — Jim Edmonds’ first at-bat in a month showed he’s lost none of his flair for the dramatic.

A night after hitting a three-run pinch homer, Edmonds was in St. Louis’ starting lineup Tuesday after being side-lined since mid-August due to post-concussion syndrome.

“That’s one thing he’s demonstrated,” manager Tony La Russa said. “He’ll rise to the occasion.”

St. Louis, which has lost six in a row and seen its NL Central lead rapidly shrink, needs some more big moments from Edmonds.

The eight-time Gold Glove center fielder has made a number of acrobatic catches during his seven seasons in St. Louis, and has piled up just as many big hits. Memorably, his extra-inning homer forced Game 7 in the 2004 NLCS, helping propel the team to its first World Series in 17 seasons.

La Russa said Edmonds’ clutch production over the years compares favorably with that of teammates Albert Pu-jols and Scott Rolen, Harold Baines from one of his early White Sox teams and Jose Canseco from the Oakland Ath-letics. He said he’s often kidded Edmonds for his ability to come through in a big network game, or if hockey pal Chris Pronger is in attendance.

“Whenever Pronger was around, he’d always show off,” La Russa said. “He’d always have a big day. He has that ability to get to that next level.”

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Edmonds had another of those moments Monday with his three-run homer off Mike Thompson that tied it at 5 in the fourth inning, although it wasn’t enough to prevent another loss in the team’s late-season slide. St. Louis led by the division by seven games on Sept. 20, and led by only 2½ entering Tuesday’s game.

“It would have been a great story,” La Russa said.

Still, neither La Russa nor Edmonds wanted to make too big of a deal of his first meaningful swing in a long time, or his return to the lineup. He was making his first start since Aug. 25, and only his second since Aug. 12, so La Russa said it wouldn’t be a total shock if the post-concussion symptoms come back.

La Russa also noted that returning to form after a lengthy layoff is more difficult at age 36.

“Everything is so up in the air,” he said. “You just watch and see how he gets through it. He may take two sprints in the outfield and come back and say, ‘I’m done.’

“We might as well find out.”

Without much conviction, Edmonds said he felt “OK.” He told reporters they were making too big a deal of his re-turn.

La Russa eased him in, batting him sixth against former teammate Woody Williams. Edmonds, batting .262 with 19 homers and 68 RBIs in 105 games, has batted fourth or fifth most of the season.

“This is just getting a chance to play, and we’ll see how it goes,” Edmonds said. “That’s all I can say right now. If you go out there and make a fool of yourself and cause the team to lose, then what are we talking about?”


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