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When the news that Albert Pujols(notes) would be playing third base first broke on Monday night, it sounded like the most Tony La Russa way to announce that his genius had returned to the St. Louis Cardinals.

It turns out, however, that it was really Pujols' welcome back present for La Russa, who had missed the last six games battling a case of shingles.

With the team struggling to fill the hot corner after David Freese's(notes) broken hand, Pujols offered to cross the diamond and start at third base for the first time since Sept. 23, 2002. It was a crazy idea, but not that crazy. The first baseman, after all, came up in the Cardinals' farm system as a third baseman, played two innings there as a sub earlier this season and has been taking grounders during practice.

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Despite some ongoing concerns with Pujols' elbow, La Russa took his superstar up on his offer for what turned out to be a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Busch Stadium.

Doing so allowed La Russa to move Lance Berkman(notes) in from right field to first base, Nick Punto(notes) from third to second and Allen Craig(notes) from second to right. (Got all that?)

From insidestl.com:

"Albert volunteered to play third. I wouldn't have really come forward unless I had a lot more reasons to do it," La Russa said. "(I was) a little concerned that Craig hadn't had very much work making pivots, so I don't feel great about that. Albert said, 'Hey, I can play third' and all of the sudden he goes there ... and everybody's at a more natural position. But it pivots on Albert's willingness.

"So he just said, 'Look, my arm feels great. I can play third.' And I've seen him play third. It puts everybody in a more natural spot."

La Russa might not have had any plans before the game to make this more than a one-time thing, but Pujols may have convinced him otherwise with his play. Not only did he not commit any errors while manning third, he started the turn of a double play in the sixth and made an impressive diving stop of a Ben Francisco(notes) grounder in the top of the seventh inning.

Watch the diving stop here

Also, while a tongue-in-cheek take might have Pujols volunteerism coming as a result of his upcoming contract negotiations — think of the positional value his numbers at third base would bring! — there's at least one camp other than his agent's office that is really rooting to see him play third a few more times this season.

Yep, four more starts at third and Pujols becomes eligible at third base in Y! Fantasy Leagues.

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