Berkman aiming for mid-July return

Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman has stepped up his rehab, expects to return mid-July.

ST. LOUIS — Injured Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman has stepped up his rehab and hasn't ruled out a return when the Cardinals open play following the All-Star break on Friday, July 13, in Cincinnati.
Berkman, who rejoined the club Monday after rehabbing his knee for several weeks in Houston, jogged in the outfield and took about 50 swings off soft toss. He plans to continue to amp up his rehab daily and hopes to be back in a couple of weeks.
"The leg feels good," Berkman said. "It's just the rest of me that needs to get in shape. I haven't swung a bat in six weeks. You've got to kind of take a little spring training all over again and get back ready to go. I don't know how long that will take.
"It's coming along. I'm running and I'm not having any trouble with it. We're right on schedule. I swung the bat today and felt good. I'll be happy to get back in baseball shape, but outside of that, I think it won't be too much longer."
The 36-year-old Berkman thought his season was over when he had surgery on his right knee on May 25. But he awoke to find that his ACL was fine and the only repairs made were to fix his meniscus and cartilage damage.
He's played in just 13 games this season and was hitting .333 with one home run and four RBI when he went down. The winner of the Comeback Player of the Year Award last year, Berkman is set to become a free agent after the season.
"The plan all along was to get it in Houston to where I could do the baseball stuff and then come back here and do the baseball stuff and be ready to go," Berkman said. "So far it's worked exactly like we anticipated it. I'll slowly build into doing stuff like taking grounders. I don't anticipate it being too long. I do need 10 days or so before the second half starts to get back into shape.
"Unless there's something that comes up that I'm not seeing right now, I can't imagine that it would take much longer. Basically, I've got to get back into playing shape. That includes building my endurance when I swing. Today, I think I took maybe 25 swings from both sides of the plate. I've got to build that up to about 100 from each side, where I can do that and feel good about not being sore and get my bat speed back."
His return would be a welcomed boost to an already dangerous Cardinals lineup. But his return to the clubhouse Monday may serve as another big boost anyway.
"It's just nice to have him around," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I saw him take a few swings, which is nice to see. We're going to continue to move forward. He looks in good shape, too. His response was that he hasn't been sitting around on the couch the last month. He looks like he's fit and ready to go. It'll just be how his knee responds to the tests that we give him.
"We just like having him around for what he brings to the team ... his personality, what he adds to the leadership. And obviously having him on the field is a huge deal, too. He's got to heal. However long it takes, it takes. Hopefully it's sooner rather than later."
Berkman was non-committal on a rehab assignment but said a decision would likely be discussed and made this weekend or early next week. His preference would be to avoid one if at all possible.

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