By Stephen Hawkins
Lance Berkman expects to know soon whether he will play again this season for the Texas Rangers, or retire.
The 37-year-old designated hitter with surgically repaired knees has been on the disabled list since July 7 with left hip inflammation. He played in 32 games last season for St. Louis because of a left calf strain and two operations on his right knee, and that knee is affecting his mechanics and limiting his power. Running is also problematic.
"I don't have any concerns that I wouldn't be able to get back out on the field. In terms of how effective I'll be once I get out there, I mean, I do have some concern about that," Berkman said Tuesday. "My swing is not at a good place because of my knee. Not because of the pain, but because of the inability to put it in the position that it needs it to be to hit with any kind of authority. ... I can go up there and slap the ball around, but that's really not what we need."
After a strong start to the season, the switch-hitting Berkman was hitting .254 with six home runs and 34 RBIs in 68 games when he went on the DL.
Berkman said before Tuesday night's game against the Los Angeles Angels that he planned to take batting practice for a couple of days to see how he felt. While Berkman didn't take BP on the field, hitting coach Dave Magadan said there was no setback and that Berkman was instead hitting in the indoor cage.
"It's getting down to I need to either be headed out on a rehab assignment, or be headed strongly back toward the field, or headed back to Houston," he said.
"You've got to fish or cut bait, and I think we're getting down to that point here rather quickly," Berkman said, without giving a specific date. "I don't want to let this thing linger and linger and linger because I'm not doing anybody, myself or the team, any good by doing that. ... There does come a point in time where you have to make a decision and then it's either yeah or nay, and then you just live with it."
Rangers manager Ron Washington said Berkman was productive when healthy, and the manager was hopeful that the DH "progresses to the point where he can get back and help us."
Sitting at his locker in the clubhouse, Berkman apologized for not getting up while talking to reporters. He said the bulky heat pad wrapped around his midsection wouldn't stay in place while standing.
The Texas native is a .294 career hitter in his 15th major league season. He played for the Houston Astros from 1999-2010, part of their only World Series team in 2005. He spent the last part of 2010 with the New York Yankees before going to the Cardinals for two seasons, including their 2011 World Series title over the Rangers.
Berkman thought about retiring last offseason before accepting a deal from Texas worth $10 million. It includes a $12 million club option for 2014 with a $1 million buyout.
"''I feel like these guys invested in me and I'd like to give them some type of return on their investment if I can," Berkman said. "I want to do right by the Rangers."
While the Rangers were in Cleveland over the weekend, Berkman remained in Texas and did rehab exercises without running or swinging a bat. He said he has been completely open with general manager Jon Daniels about how he feels and if he thinks he will be able to contribute.
All while facing the real possibility that he might not play again.
"It's real tough. I's a balancing act between, and I think every player comes to this point at some point in their career, to where you're just mentally, like you still feel like you did when you were 25, but it's hard to believe that physically you're not that same person," he said. "I have got to come to grips with what my true physical capabilities are at this point and then make a decision based on that, and not based on an unrealistic expectation of performance."