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.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.