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Berkman, Westbrook hopeful for return

Lance Berkman and Jake Westbrook are progressing and hope for return if the Cards make the World Series

ST. LOUIS — If the St. Louis Cardinals can beat the San Francisco Giants and advance to the World Series, they could have two key parts waiting to help them out.


Pitcher Jake Westbrook and first baseman Lance Berkman both participated in a simulated game Tuesday at Busch Stadium, and both are encouraged they might be available eight days from now for the start of the World Series.


Westbrook, out since he suffered an oblique injury on Sept. 8, threw a 50-pitch simulated game as several members of the Cardinals' coaching staff and front office watched on.


"I felt great," Westbrook said. "I'm over the oblique stuff, and now it's just kind of a mater of getting my arm back in shape. This is my fourth time off the mound since my oblique has been good. I felt really good, and I'm excited about being ready to go if need be."


Berkman's situation is less clear, but he also feels encouraged about the possibility of returning should the Cardinals advance into next week's World Series. The switch-hitter has played in only 32 games this season because of persistent pain in his right knee.


"I'm a lot closer than I was two weeks ago," Berkman said. "I'm just trying to get ready in case we make the next round of the playoffs and give myself a chance to be on the roster.


Westbrook said he recently threw a bullpen session while in Georgia for the birth of his son that made him believe he was ready to go. The session Tuesday allowed the Cardinals to see his status firsthand.


"It was good to get out on the mound so they could see what I'm capable of doing and that I'm back and I feel real good," Westbrook said. "I definitely feel like I'm capable of going out there and getting the job done if need be. I'll definitely be ready."


Asked about Westbrook's status during his Tuesday press conference, manager Mike Matheny said: "Jake threw the ball well. We need to see what we have available, take a look at all of the options and look at the opposition and be able to make an adjustment from there.


"Knowing that Jake has progressed and faced hitters and his stuff looks right, gives us an option in that regard, but it also gets him one step closer if we're fortunate enough to get to the next series to have him as an option."


It has been a frustrating and injury-plagued season for Berkman, who played seven games in April before landing on the disabled list with a calf strain. He returned for only six games before having knee surgery in late May.


Berkman returned in July but played in only 15 games before returning to the disabled list because of lingering pain in his knee in early August. He was activated in September when rosters were expanded and appeared in only three games before undergoing what was thought to be season-ending surgery.


He made one at-bat during the final game of the regular season and has apparently progressed enough that he's holding out hope for a return should the Cardinals advance.


"I think it's definitely possible," Berkman said. "I'm not going to say that I'm definitely going to be, because a lot of it is not just how I feel physically. Its how the organization views my readiness to compete, because essentially I haven't played all year and they may feel like there may be another guy that gives them a better chance to win, a guy that's had more reps. We'll see how it plays out.


"It's certainly unexpected to be able to be in this position, and, really, I'm actually pleased with where I am physically given how I felt two or three weeks ago. "


The main obstacle for Berkman remains running.


"I've done a little bit, but I haven't done very much running," he said. "Obviously, you have to be able to get around the bases without too much trouble. That's the next step, and, hopefully, I'll be able to make that here in the next day or so."


Berkman more than likely would replace a bench player such as Adron Chambers. Westbrook could replace Shelby Miller or Fernando Salas.