Could Lance Berkman make his return if the St. Louis Cardinals advance to the World Series?
Berkman isn’t sure of the answer himself, but is feeling better from a physical standpoint. He only played in 32 games this season and a knee injury has kept him sidelined for the rest. With the extent he’s been limited this season he’s not sure that it’s an option the team would be interested in exploring, but he says that if they want to, it could be a possibility.
Of course, the San Francisco Giants might have something to say about this as the Cardinals have to get past them in order to advance and the National League Championship Series shifts to Busch Stadium in St. Louis at 4:00pm ET tomorrow. Berkman has enjoyed lending his support from the bench in a disappointing season for him, which saw him get sent to the disabled list on 3 separate occasions for left calf and right knee issues. He underwent surgery in May and September to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.
Of his 97 plate appearances this season, his ceremonial at-bat as a pinch hitter in the final game of the regular season at Busch Stadium was one of the more memorable as it drew him a standing ovation from the crowd. Berkman has given retirement thought, which a year ago would have left one scratching their head. While debuting with the Cardinals in 2011, Berkman played in 145 games and posted a .301 batting average while hitting 31 home runs and driving in 94 RBIs. Berkman received the NL Comeback Player of the Year award and his first World Series ring in the process.
Berkman worked out on Tuesday and took some swings off of Jake Westbrook who is also trying to recover from a rib injury himself. He is a career .317 hitter in 223 plate appearances. He went 11-for-26 with a home run and 5 RBIs in the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers. The Cardinals want him to feel healthy enough to play and admire his optimism, but they haven’t given any thought on roster decisions at this time.
At the time Spring Training begins Berkman will turn 37 and with Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran back, there may not be a spot for him to fit on the Cardinals roster. Berkman is a career .296 hitter in a career spanning 14 seasons, split between the Astros, Cardinals, and Yankees. He has 360 career home runs and 1,200 career RBIs and has made 6 NL All-Star teams. On 6 occasions Berkman has finished in the top 10 in NL MVP voting.
It would be tough to see Berkman go out on this note, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t suit up for the 2013 season. Age may have caught up to him. If he does report to Spring Training, I wouldn’t bank on him being in a Cardinals uniform.