Talk to just about anyone who follows baseball with a level head and they’ll tell how unlikely it is that 35-year-old Lance Berkman is going to be able to maintain good health all season while playing regularly in right field for the Cardinals.
He hasn’t made starts in the outfield on a daily basis since 2004 and he’s undergone surgery on both of his knees since the winter of 2006.
But Berkman doesn’t care about the doubters. And neither do the Cardinals, who signed the veteran to a one-year, $8 million contract this winter with full knowledge that they will have nowhere to hide him should his knees, shoulders or elbows begin acting up. First base, after all, is occupied.
Berkman played right field in Thursday’s Grapefruit League game against the Marlins for the first time in a couple of weeks and told B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest that he felt “great” physically:
“I’ve got no problems,” said Berkman. “My arm feels great. I’ve got no problems playing the outfield. It’s not like the thing is just going to blow up. It was a little bit sore but there’s nothing wrong with it. It was a pretty basic day really.”
The proud Waco, Texas native also had a message for those who have questioned his abilities:
“I’ve got almost 1,000 games in the outfield, so I can play the outfield,” Berkman continued. “You all can write this: I am an outfielder. I came up as an outfielder. I’ve played a full year of center field in the big leagues. I can play the outfield. I can catch the ball. I can throw it. It’s funny to me but I guess I can understand why people were questioning, or wanted to see me catch a ball or hit a cutoff. It’s basic stuff.”
Berkman still has a great bat and elite plate discipline, but luck will have to be on his side this year for everything to go as smoothly as he wants. He has already battled minor elbow and knee injuries this spring.