SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Lance Berkman knows he's being watched with some trepidation while going through spring training with the Texas Rangers.
"Kind of a house of cards deal with me," he said Wednesday.
After all, he is 37 years old with a gray-speckled beard and coming off a season when he played only 32 games with St. Louis because of two operations on his right knee and a left calf strain. He thought about retiring before accepting an $11 million, one-year deal from Texas to be primarily a designated hitter.
Now, a week into spring training, Berkman has a mild strain in his right calf.
He said it's nothing to worry about.
"It's no big deal. I think it's a result of more volume than I've done," Berkman said. "We're taking groundballs, we're running, I haven't been doing that stuff. I've been lifting, and more in a rehab mode, and now I've kind of shifted into the baseball mode and it's not something that to me is that concerning. It's just one of the things that happens to you at the beginning of camp when you start trying to sort things out physically."
Berkman is a .296 career hitter with 360 home runs and 1,200 RBIs in 1,806 regular-season games. He spent most of his career with Houston before being an All-Star in 2011 with the Cardinals, when he hit .301 with 31 homers and 94 RBIs in 145 games and was part of their World Series championship over Texas.
The Rangers need Berkman's bat after losing slugger Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli and free agency and trading Michael Young to Philadelphia. Berkman likely will fill the No. 3 spot in the batting order that Hamilton had occupied and adds some versatility to a lineup filled with right-handers.
"We're being cautious," general manager Jon Daniels said. "I think Lance understands ... Especially at this stage in his career, he knows where the finish line is. We're not going to do anything to jeopardize that. Not really worried about it, it's the middle of February."