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McGwire Return In Doubt

The Cardinals are not optimistic that they'll be activating Mark McGwire on Sept. 1 when active rosters expand froim 25 players to 40.

"It hasn't really improved much and he's been doing everything for it," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said before Wednesday's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. "He's been on time and hasn't missed one treatment, and hasn't gotten an attitude about it. But when you're doing all that and it doesn't improve, you start to worry."

McGwire last played July 6, taking himself out of a game due to a severe case of patella tendinitis in his right knee.

Trainer Barry Weinberg is to the point where he's using gallows humor, joking about needing the condemned convict from "The Green Mile" to suck out the pain and speculating about the existence of a voodoo doll with a pin stuck in the knee somewhere in America.

"Please take the pin out," Weinberg said.

McGwire, who has 30 home runs, 69 RBIs and a .303 average, will not accompany the team on a seven-game trip that begins Thursday.

"As long as it goes and remains the same, the less optimistic it becomes," Weinberg said. "But you just can't give up. You just keep thinking something good will happen."

Weinberg said McGwire is slowly, very slowly, getting better, "but it's not significant enough to call it progress."

La Russa said last week that he wanted to use McGwire as a pinch hitter in September, although McGwire has said he wants to come back as a regular player. The manager said there's no controversy.

"He wants to play in the field and that's what he's going through all this stuff to do," La Russa said. "All I said is if he hasn't been improving a great deal, and if it turns out he can't play in the field, he's one of the most dangerous pinch hitters in baseball. He understands, he just doesn't want to give into that yet."

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