Lance Berkman has started five of eight games since returning from knee surgery and both the switch-hitting first baseman and manager Mike Matheny indicated that the reduced workload may be a long-term plan.
Not only is keeping the 36-year-old healthy a big consideration, the Cardinals have a logjam of capable hitters and Berkman explained to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch that he’s perfectly fine giving up at-bats to guys like Allen Craig:
We’ve got a surplus of guys now for our lineup spots. Everybody deserves to play, really. You could make the case that everybody but me deserves to play. I’m OK with that. I think the development of young guys is fun to watch and I don’t want to retard AC’s development in any way. He’s certainly earned a place in the lineup.
Throughout his career Berkman has been much better against right-handed pitching, so giving him regular days off versus left-handers would seemingly be the easiest solution for what Matheny called “a lot of juggling going on.”
Berkman has struggled since coming off the disabled list, but overall this season he’s hit .281 with an .847 OPS in 21 games after being one of the NL’s best hitters last year.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.
Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.
As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.