SAN DIEGO — Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman will undergo season-ending surgery on his right knee Tuesday in Houston that could signal the end of his 14-year career.
Berkman, 36, played just 31 games this season after having surgery on the same knee in May. He tried to finish the season as a pinch-hitter off the bench but became so limited that he had to have a designated runner if he were to reach base.
The switch-hitter signed a one-year, $12-million contract extension last fall after an impressive bounce back year in 2011 but he had just five at-bats since Aug. 2 and looked nothing like his usual self during the rare time he was on the field.
“I’m disappointed for him and disappointed for us too,” said manager Mike Matheny. “Lance was just as beat up mentally as he was physically in trying to come back and then something else (happens) and that takes its toll on you and then you try to perform at the highest level so I felt for him but obviously once again I hurt for us too knowing what he brings to this club.
“You could just see that he was fighting it.”
Berkman has hinted at retirement several times during the season and Tuesday’s surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee could serve to be the final straw.
The six-time All-Star recently achieved his 1,200th career RBI and has a resume that also includes a .296 batting average, 1,843 hits, 360 home runs, 1,163 walks and 1,119 runs scored.
Berkman was a huge part of the Cardinals’ World Series run a season ago, hitting a home run in Game 6 against the Texas Rangers before tying the score with a two-out hit in the 10th inning. He hit .301 with 31 home runs and 96 RBI in 2011 before returning to the Cardinals on the one-year deal.
One option for Berkman to continue his career would be to return to the Houston Astros next year as a designated hitter as they begin play in the American League.
Berkman will remain in Houston following Tuesday’s surgery but is expected to rejoin the Cardinals in St. Louis for their final homestand of the season.