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Fowler returns from DL; J. Martinez optioned

Center fielder homers in first game back; Pham rests
MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- With just three games before the All-Star break, the Cardinals activated Dexter Fowler on Friday from the 10-day disabled list and optioned outfielder Jose Martinez to Triple-A Memphis. Fowler missed 12 games dealing with a right heel spur, but returned to hit one of the Cardinals' four home runs in a 6-5 loss to the Mets at Busch Stadium.

"It feels good to just be back in there playing with the boys," Fowler said after Friday's game. "It's hard sitting over there watching."

ST. LOUIS -- With just three games before the All-Star break, the Cardinals activated Dexter Fowler on Friday from the 10-day disabled list and optioned outfielder Jose Martinez to Triple-A Memphis. Fowler missed 12 games dealing with a right heel spur, but returned to hit one of the Cardinals' four home runs in a 6-5 loss to the Mets at Busch Stadium.

"It feels good to just be back in there playing with the boys," Fowler said after Friday's game. "It's hard sitting over there watching."

The issue prevented the center fielder from wearing his cleats and was linked to many of the injuries he has dealt with throughout his career. The pain associated with the injury is now at a level he can withstand. It had been unclear if he would return prior to the break, but now the Cardinals will try to recreate what Fowler and Matt Carpenter had been building near the top of the lineup before the time off.

"We've all seen when he's going right and how he can be one of those, we call it a spark, all season," manager Mike Matheny said. "When he and Carp were really rolling, you see our offense take off."

Fowler was hitting .245/.336/.481 before the DL stint and had 15 hits in his last 13 starts, batting second after Carpenter took over the leadoff spot on June 7. In Fowler's return to the lineup against the Mets, he was batting third with Stephen Piscotty taking the No. 2 spot.

The Cardinals plan to change their outfield lineup daily to accommodate Tommy Pham, who filled Fowler's spot well, both defensively and offensively, but did not start Friday due to rest.

Video: MIA@STL: Pham draws Cardinals within two runs

Pham entered Friday tied for the National League lead in outfielder defensive assists (seven) with Billy Hamilton and Hunter Renfroe. Pham had a hit in eight of his last 10 games and was batting .289 in 56 games. Pham also was one run behind Fowler with 39 runs scored and 11 fewer games. They will compete for playing time in the outfield with Piscotty and Randal Grichuk, but Fowler has no plans to move defensively to accommodate the number of outfielders.

"I play in center field," Fowler said. "That's where I came here to play."

Finding playing time for Pham now becomes an interesting dilemma for the Cardinals.

"I don't think we can deny the kind of center field that Tommy has played," Matheny said. "It's not going to be every single day, [Fowler's] going to need a day here in these next three, and then we'll take a break and kind of see where we are and regroup at that point."

The Cardinals' surplus of outfielders was evident in the decision to send down Martinez. After hitting a double in the No. 3 spot on Thursday, he was averaging .280/.321/.464 with 17 RBIs and five home runs.

"It's hard not to keep a kid that's hitting like he was," Matheny said. "[We'll] continue to watch and realize that we still have Jose in our system and still have him available, and the message to him is to go down and be prepared and be that guy that it's obvious that you're ready to come and help us."

Video: PIT@STL: Martinez smacks a two-run homer to left

Injury updates
• Right-hander Kevin Siegrist, who is on the 10-day DL with a cervical spine sprain, began his Minor League rehab assignment with Double-A Springfield on Friday.

• Left-hander Zach Duke joined Triple-A Memphis as he makes his way back from left arm surgery. The left-hander threw three scoreless innings in his rehab assignments with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals and Class A Advanced Palm Beach.

Alaina Getzenberg is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis.

St. Louis Cardinals, Dexter Fowler, Jose Martinez