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 MLB.com 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.

Victor Martinez played his final major league game on Saturday

Victor Martinez
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After 16 years in the majors, longtime Tigers DH Victor Martinez capped his career with one final start at Comerica Park. Although there are seven games remaining in the club’s regular season schedule, Martinez said he felt he owed it to the fans to record his final at-bat at home. He’ll still cheer the rest of the team on from the dugout when they hit the road for their last six-game stretch on Monday, though he’s not expected to slot into the lineup at any point during their back-to-back away series against the Twins and Brewers.

In order to commemorate the occasion, the Tigers arranged a pregame ceremony to celebrate the veteran infielder’s seven years with the team, during which they presented him with Topps baseball cards, a recliner, a pair of boots, and a saddle, among other honors. Martinez also put in a special request to play first base, a position he hadn’t manned in over two years.

The 39-year-old didn’t waste a single minute of his final start in the majors. He deftly handled an inning-ending out in the top of the first, then laced a rare infield single to short in his first and final at-bat of the afternoon, beating the throw to first and advancing Nicholas Castellanos to second base in order to set up the Tigers’ first run: a two-out RBI single from Niko Goodrum that brought Castellanos home to score.

“I think that at-bat was the perfect at-bat to describe my career,” Martinez told reporters after the Tigers wrapped a 5-4 win over the Royals. “I had to sweat it out. I had to sweat it out the whole way. I had to grind it. That was my whole career.”

Following the hit — and the standing ovation that greeted it — the switch-hitter was promptly replaced by pinch-runner Ronny Rodriguez, who subbed in at second base in the top of the second while Goodrum shifted from second to first base. Taking Saturday’s performance into account, Martinez polished off his big league career with a lifetime .295/.359/.455 batting line, 423 doubles, 246 home runs, 1,178 RBI, and 28.4 fWAR across 1,973 games and three separate stints for the Indians, Red Sox, and Tigers. His accomplishments at the plate have been decorated with five All-Star nominations, two Silver Slugger Awards, and the designated hitter-exclusive Edgar Martinez Award following a career-best campaign in 2014.