The Cardinals could be without right fielder Carlos Beltran for a day, maybe two, after he suffered what is said to be a mild left knee strain in the first inning of Wednesday's third game of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium. But those with knowledge of the situation say that Beltran should be able to play before the end of the series, could play on Friday and possibly even in today's fourth game.

Beltran, who grounded into a double play in the first, injured himself trying to cross first base with his last stride and then he didn't go out to the field for the second inning. He did however, leave the park for an MRI exam, which showed no structural damage, according to a club official.

The options are twofold for the Cardinals:

Very likely is that they will play a man short in this series for as long as Beltran is out, meaning they would have 24 healthy players until Beltran would be ready, which, at the latest, would seem to be potential Games 6 and possibly 7 in San Francisco on Sunday and Monday. The more unlikely decision would be that if the medical staff felt Beltran would be sidelined for a period of 10 days to two weeks, the club could move immediately to replace him on the roster before tonight's Game 4. The down side of that would be that Beltran then would be ineligible for the World Series, which starts next Wednesday, if the Cardinals got that far. Again, that second option is a very unlikely one.

Beltran described what happened in a text message late Wednesday night: "I was running to first and when I passed the bag I felt a sharp pain ... close to the knee. I try to stay in the game but the pain was strong.

"I went to have an MRI and all the results came negative, everything was looking good.

"I am happy about that but I am also very sore.

"The plan is to get to the ballpark tomorrow, get the treatment and try to be in the lineup."