The best-case scenario for Lance Berkman is that he returns to the St. Louis Cardinals’ lineup after the All-Star break. The 36-year-old first baseman is prepared for news on his injured right knee that’s not so rosy.
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General manager John Mozeliak said Monday that Berkman will be sidelined at least six to eight weeks with significant cartilage damage on both sides of the knee, but an MRI did not appear to show ligament damage. Because he was hurt making a routine play, Berkman suspects a ligament injury that would require more significant surgery and end his season — and perhaps his career.
Berkman will undergo an arthroscopic procedure later this week in Vail, Colo.
"At a minimum, it’s a scope to repair it," Mozeliak said. "We’re hopeful, we’re optimistic that’s what it is. But we’ll need a few days before we determine anything. Certainly, he knows there are uncertain times ahead of him."
Berkman spoke with reporters after crossing the clubhouse on crutches.
"We can all agree you shouldn’t get hurt just stretching for a ball at first base," he said. "Fearful is the wrong word, but I’m certainly concerned – not just what the injury is but why did it happen?
"It’s pretty simple: Best-case scenario, it’s probably after the All-Star break, worst-case scenario is I’m done for the year."
Berkman was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday. The NL Comeback Player of the Year in 2011 realizes he may have to make another comeback, or call it a career.
"You certainly think, if I have to get my ACL repaired, I might be done playing," he said. "And the doctor kind of said that. He’s like, `Well, you’re not a young man anymore.’
"You just don’t know where you’re going to be mentally. Am I willing to make the commitment? Those are questions I’m trying not to speculate on too much."
Even if the ligament is not torn, Berkman believes there’s damage given he felt a sliding sensation when he was injured.
"They could see it on the MRI — it’s not gone. But its effectiveness is debatable considering the way I got hurt. They’re not going to know about that until I go under the knife," he said.
Berkman said he had the sensation of the joint slipping during the playoffs last season but had no pain.
"It never was to the point where I felt, oh man, I’m about to blow out here," Berkman said. "It was just a weird little sensation that you could play with and it wasn’t a problem."
The fact that the ligament appears to be intact, Berkman said, does give a "glimmer of hope."
Berkman has played just 13 games this season, also missing significant time with a pulled left calf muscle. He said he’s had torn cartilage in the knee since spring training but it wasn’t enough to affect his play.
He was batting .333 with a home run and four RBI.
Last season, Berkman hit .301 with 31 homers and 94 RBI in 145 games to help the Cardinals win the World Series. He had a .412 on-base percentage and a .547 slugging percentage, both of which ranked among the NL leaders.
His injury is a major blow to the middle of the lineup for the slumping Cardinals, who had dropped four straight and eight of 10. St. Louis also lost longtime slugger Albert Pujols in the offseason when he signed a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels.
Still, the Cardinals began the day with a half-game lead in the NL Central.
Rookie Matt Adams, the franchise’s minor league player of the year in 2011, and Matt Carpenter will see time at first base for now and utility man Allen Craig could also man that position when he returns from a hamstring injury sustained last week that landed him on the disabled list. Adams, recalled from Triple-A Memphis when Berkman was hurt, started for the second straight game Monday after getting two hits in his major league debut.
Carpenter was batting .280 with three homers and 19 RBI in 37 games.
"We’ll be feeling our way through it. We brought Matt Adams here to play, so we’ll get a good look at him," manager Mike Matheny said.