Lance Berkman to begin season on disabled list

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Lance Berkman was doing well enough in his recovery from March 13 knee surgery that he took batting practice and did some running yesterday, but afterward his knee swelled up and this morning the Astros placed him on the disabled list.
Berkman will miss at least the first four games of the season and Brian McTaggart of reports that veteran utility man Geoff Blum is expected to replace him at first base. Seriously.
Berkman batted .274 with 25 homers in 136 games last season, posting a .907 OPS that actually ranks as the second-worst of his excellent career. By comparison, Blum batted .247 with a .681 OPS in 120 games last season, hasn’t topped a .705 OPS since 2002, and sports a career line of .250/.310/.398 in 11 seasons.
Obviously the Astros are hoping that Berkman will be ready to come off the disabled list by mid-April, in which case replacing him with Blum isn’t such a big deal, but if their best hitter needs an extended stay on the disabled list and his replacement is a 36-year-old with a .698 career OPS … well, they may be headed for a third losing season in the past four years.

Clayton Kershaw completes spring training with a 0.00 ERA

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Clayton Kershaw had nothing left to prove when he exited the mound during his last Cactus League start on Friday. He finished camp with a 0.00 ERA, made all the more impressive after he extended his scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings following 6 2/3 frames of one-hit ball against the Royals.

In six spring training starts this year, the Dodgers southpaw racked up 12 hits, four walks and 23 strikeouts. His velocity appeared to fluctuate between the high-80s and low-90s from start to start, but manager Dave Roberts told reporters that he expects Kershaw to get back up to the 93 m.p.h. range next week. Kershaw is tabbed for his eighth consecutive Opening Day start on Thursday.

The 30-year-old lefty is poised to enter his 11th season with the club in 2018. He went 18-4 in 27 starts last year and turned in a 2.31 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 over 175 innings. He suffered his fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, including a lower back strain that required a five-week stay on the disabled list.

The Dodgers will open their season against the Giants on Thursday, March 29 at 7:08 PM ET. Given the sudden rash of injuries that hit the Giants’ rotation earlier today, Kershaw’s Opening Day opponent has not yet been announced.