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.
Mets second baseman Robinson Canó is not in the lineup for Monday’s series opener against the division rival Nationals. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, it’s punishment for failing to run hard on a pair of double plays over the weekend against the Marlins.
Manager Mickey Callaway said, “He understands that it’s unacceptable to not run balls out. He understands that he needs to do that at all times.”
Canó first gaffe came in the top of the seventh inning on Friday, with his team trailing 7-3. Facing Adam Conley, Canó hit a grounder back to the pitcher, who turned a 1-6-3 double play. Canó was only halfway up the first base line when the throw got to first base.
In the fourth inning on Sunday, with the game still scoreless, Canó tapped a Sandy Alcantara pitch in the dirt. Thinking it was foul, Canó didn’t run, but catcher Chad Wallach charged and grabbed the ball while it was still in fair territory. He threw to second base for the force out and then the ball was easily whipped to first base to complete the double play as Canó still thought it was foul.
This likely wouldn’t be as big a deal as it currently is if Canó were actually producing at the plate and if the Mets weren’t in a freefall. Canó has a .245/.293/.374 batting line on the season. Meanwhile, the Mets are 20-25 and riding a five-game losing streak which includes having been shut out in each of their last two games.