McGwire confident offense will take off -

McGwire confident offense will take off

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Mark McGwire needs no reminders that the St. Louis Cardinals' offense sputtered to the All-Star break in his first season as batting coach.

McGwire's advice: It's a six-month season. He points out that the Cardinals are still one game behind the Reds for the NL Central lead heading into a four-game series against the Dodgers starting Thursday.

Outfielder Ryan Ludwick could return this weekend from an injury he jokingly referred to as a "never-ending calf strain," while rookie third baseman David Freese (ankle) might return later this month.

The pitching staff has done a lot better handling adversity, losing two starters for an extended period while leaning on All-Stars Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter plus left-handed rookie Jaime Garcia.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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