Lance Berkman returned to Houston yesterday for the first time since being traded by the Astros last season and was met with some pretty harsh criticism from local announcer Milo Hamilton.
Appearing on a radio show, Hamilton rhetorically asked of Berkman:
Why did you think it wasn’t necessary to get in shape your last couple of years as an Astro? And now to a team you didn’t even know, a manager you didn’t play for, you felt it was your responsibility to get in great shape? And it’s paying off. Lance, I love you. But wouldn’t it have been great to have given that same dedication to the Astros and your owner here that you did in two short months to the Cardinals?
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that Berkman responded by calling Hamilton’s words “ludicrous” and “falsehoods.”
I have no idea how hard Berkman did or didn’t rehab his knee injury and he certainly didn’t earn the “Fat Elvis” nickname by being in wonderful shape, but as Craig has documented so thoroughly in this space the whole “best shape of his life” thing is hardly uncommon for veteran players coming off injuries or sub par seasons. Or in Berkman’s case, both.
Beyond that, Berkman hardly pushed his way out of Houston and after playing a dozen seasons for the Astros as one of the greatest and most well-liked players in franchise history it seems like ripping him immediately upon his return is a bit much, especially coming from someone who surely spent the past decade praising him at every turn because he played for the home team.
Berkman went 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI yesterday, but the Astros won 6-5.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.