Lance Berkman nearing return from knee surgery

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Lance Berkman will not be activated from the disabled list for the start of the second half tomorrow, but his return from knee surgery isn’t far off.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Berkman will travel with the Cardinals to Cincinnati after successfully lobbying that a minor league rehab assignment will not be necessary.

While Berkman’s knee is no longer an issue, he’ll have to shake the rust at the plate before being cleared to return. He took batting practice today at Busch Stadium and will go through the same routine at Great American Ballpark. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny believes it’s likely he’ll be activated at some point during the team’s upcoming six-game road trip.

Berkman was hitting .333 (14-for-42) with one homer and four RBI in 13 games prior to undergoing surgery on May 25 to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee. While his return likely means less at-bats for Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter, the 36-year-old isn’t expected to play every day initially.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.