Lance Berkman admits he doesn’t have “any bat speed”

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Lance Berkman made the final out in the Cardinals’ crushing 4-3 loss to the Brewers on Wednesday afternoon at Milwaukee’s Miller Park, lofting a bases-loaded fly-out to the warning track in deep left field.

“Big Puma” is now 0-for-8 with three walks and four strikeouts since returning this past weekend from knee surgery, and acknowledged to B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest on Wednesday evening that he doesn’t feel like he has very much strength:

“I just don’t have any bat speed right now,” said the 36-year-old first baseman. “That ball I hit in the ninth, that’s a grand slam. If I have my normal bat speed, it goes out of the ballpark, but I don’t and it died on the warning track.”

Perhaps Berkman should have spent a week or so on a minor league rehab assignment. With it being too late for that now, the Cardinals will merely hope that he can get back on track by taking extra batting practice.

Berkman is hitting .275/.393/.471 with one home run and four RBI in 61 total plate appearances this year.

Mike Rizzo and Shawn Kelley almost got into a physical confrontation

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A few weeks back the Washington Nationals designated reliever Shawn Kelley for assignment the morning after he threw his glove into the ground and glared at the Nats dugout in frustration after giving up a homer in a blowout win against the Mets. He was later traded to the Athletics. Nats GM Mike Rizzo said at that time that he thought Kelley was trying to show up his manager and that there was no room for that sort of thing on the team, offering an “either you’re with us or you’re working against us” sentiment in the process.

Today the Washington Post talks about all of the Nationals’ bullpen woes of late, and touches on the departure of Kelley as being part of the problem. In so doing, we learn that, on the night of Kelley’s mound tantrum, he and Rizzo almost got into a physical confrontation:

Rizzo headed down to the clubhouse and confronted Kelley, according to people familiar with the situation. The argument became heated, including raised voices, and eventually it almost became physical, according to people familiar with the exchange. Adam Eaton got between the two of them and separated them before things could advance further . . .

Might I point out that, the fact of this emerging now helps to vindicate Brandon Kintzler who, the day before, was traded away, some say, for being the source for negative reports from inside the Nats’ clubhouse?

That aside, the article does not make anyone look good, really. Rizzo had the backing of his team with the Kelley incident, but the overall story — how did the Nats’ bullpen, which was once a strength — get so bad? — does no favors for Rizzo. Mostly because he seems to have thought that they had so much extra bullpen depth that they could afford to deal away Kintzler, which he says was a financial move, not a punitive trade for being a media source.

Question: when was the last time you heard a baseball man say he had too much relief pitching? Especially today, in which the bullpen has assumed such a prominent role? Seems rather unreasonable to cut relievers when you’re trying mightily to come back from a sizable deficit in the standings, yes?