The Rangers signed Lance Berkman to a one-year, $10 million contract this offseason and plan to use him as their primary designated hitter in 2013. But he’ll have to be eased into that role this spring.
Berkman told Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Sunday morning that he’s only about “80 percent” recovered from the dual knee surgeries that he underwent last summer with St. Louis. The Rangers are allowing him to work at his own pace in camp and are planning to hold him out for the first couple weeks of the Cactus League schedule.
“If we need to, we can get him at-bats in a minor league game,” said Rangers manager Ron Washington.
Berkman, 37, appeared in only 32 games last season for the Cardinals, batting .259/.381/.444 with two homers and seven RBI in 97 plate appearances. He hit .301/.412/.547 with 31 home runs and 94 RBI in 2011.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉