Results tagged ‘ Lance Berkman ’
There’s a reason Lance Berkman has been my favorite player to cover in my six years on this beat. In addition to being accessible and media friendly, he gives honest answers to questions and is usually right on the money with his analysis.
So when Berkman was asked Wednesday what he thought about the Astros’ chances of contending in 2010, he certainly had a few ideas:
“It’s hard to prognosticate for next year when you don’t know what your personnel situation is going to be like,” he said. “You don’t know who’s coming back and who’s not. I think until you know that from a personnel standpoint, it’s hard to say what’s going to happen.
“The one thing I do like about our team next year is the fact I think we’re going to have Roy [Oswalt] and Wandy [Rodriguez] and Bud [Norris] and then [Brian] Moehler in the rotation. I think we have four pretty solid starters that give you a chance to win. That’s where you have to start. That’s the whole foundation to the team.
“Everybody would like to add another starting pitcher, and certainly I think we need to, but the reality of the economics in this club and what we have in our farm system to trade, that may not happen and we may not have an opportunity to do that.
“But I do think that if you want to look for a positive going into the season, you have those four guys as your one through four starters. A lot of teams would be happy with that.”
Oswalt, Rodriguez and Norris are under contract for next year, but Moehler is a free agent. He’s facing off-season knee surgery, so his return to the Astros isn’t a given.
Other players under contract for next year include second baseman Kaz Matsui, third baseman Jeff Keppinger and outfielders Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee and Michael Bourn.
The Astros’ potential free agents are infielders Darin Erstad, Aaron Boone and Miguel Tejada, outfielder Jason Michaels and pitchers Jose Valverde, LaTroy Hawkins, Tim Byrdak and Doug Brocail.
Wednesday marked the two-month mark of the last time Lance Berkman hit a home run. The homerless drought was at 31 games entering Wednesday, the second-longest such streak of Berkman’s career. His career-long drought is 33 games, set last year.
Berkman, who did spent nearly three weeks on the disabled list, hasn’t homered since July 9 against the Washington Nationals, a span of 105 at-bats through Tuesday.
“I really don’t consider myself a home run hitter,” Berkman said. “I never have, even though I’ve had some seasons when I hit a bunch of home runs. I think that I’ve been susceptible to homerless droughts.
“If you look back at my career, I had a pretty good one in ’03 and a pretty good one in ’05 and I last year I had pretty good homerless drought. In ’04 I had a real long homerless drought I broke at Shea Stadium. You remember things like that, and it’s not all that out of the ordinary. You wish it wouldn’t happen, but all I can do is go out there and hit the ball hard.”
Berkman hit .271 with 18 homers and 55 RBIs in a first half that was very un-Berkman like. He entered Wednesday hitting .258 with no homers and 11 RBIs in 93 at-bats. He missed 18 games in late July and early August with a strained left calf.
“It’s been difficult,” he said. “It’s hard to figure. I wish that weren’t the case. One of the best things I’ve ever hard an athlete say is when [Dallas Cowboys quarterback] Tony Romo said if the worst thing that happens to me in my life is sports-related, I’ll consider myself blessed.
“This is not the season I would like to have or am accustomed to having personally for the team. Everybody faces challenges in one form or another, and that’s the way I look at it. I’ll try to do the best I can the rest of the year and come back next year.”
Berkman admitted a lot of what he’s going through is mental.
“Clearly, you’re the same guy that’s had other seasons a lot better than this one, and I don’t think I’m old enough yet to get a law of diminishing returns from your age. That might start in the three or four years. It’s hard to figure from a physical standpoint.
“There is a mental component to it. You lose confidence and you try to do too much or you press a little bit, and those are things I’ve always had to deal with my whole career and sometimes I’ve been able to handle them better than others.”
Astros manager Cecil Cooper said Jeff Keppinger was available to pinch-hit Wednesday. He hadn’t played since straining his back Friday. Keppinger took ground balls at third base prior to batting practice Wednesday.
“He looked like he might be ready to get back out there,” Cooper said. “I would still be careful with him, probably just pinch-hitting and things like that. He looked OK. It still bothers him when runs a little bit.”
When asked how he planned to work third baseman Chris Johnson and shortstop Tommy Manzella into the mix, Cooper said: “I might try to plan ahead a little bit and give a guy three or four days heads up that he’s starting. We’re trying to win as many games as possible. I still have a lot of veterans who deserve to play. I will definitely plan ahead on Chris and Tommy and make sure they know they’ll be starting in three or four days [in advance]. They will know, but you won’t [reporters].”
The topic of Prince Fielder‘s over-the-top home run celebration came up in the dugout Wednesday, and not surprisingly the Astros didn’t like it. In case you missed it, Fielder hit a walk-off homer against San Francisco on Sunday and pretended to bowl over all his teammates when he arrived at home plate.
“I was always taught that when you hit a home run, you act like you’ve hit one before, like it’s not that big of a deal,” Lance Berkman said. “In 10 years in the big leagues, I’ve never taken a curtain call or anything like that [in the regular season].
“This is a different era, and a lot of things are accepted now that didn’t used to be. The way I’ve always played my career, if you hit a home run you should act like you’ve done it before. But if I happen to a home run in the next couple of games, you might see me celebrate.”
That was Berkman taking a shot at his homerless drought.
Astros manager Cecil Cooper, who is about to see Fielder break his Milwaukee single-season RBI record, wouldn’t want any of his players doing that.
“If was against my team I’d be a little upset, but it wasn’t against me so I have no problem with it,” Cooper said. “I didn’t see Ryan Howard do anything, and he hit his 440 [feet against the Astros]. That’s what you should be doing, acting as if you’re going to hit a few more.”
After throwing about 40 pitches in the bullpen Sunday morning, Roy Oswalt said he was ready to make his first start in two weeks. Oswalt, who hasn’t pitched since straining his left lower back on July 28 in Chicago, will start Tuesday against the Marlins in Miami.
“The biggest thing is command right now,” Oswalt said following his bullpen session. “It’s OK, but you can tell when you get in a game if your command is going to be better. As far as pain, I don’t have any pain.”
Oswalt (6-4, 3.61 ERA) is feeling so good he says he could have started Sunday. He hasn’t faced the Marlins this year, but is 5-4 with a 3.24 ERA in 11 career starts against Florida. That includes a 2-3 record and a 3.46 ERA in six starts at Dophin Stadium.
Meanwhile, first baseman Lance Berkman said his left calf felt better Sunday. Of course, Berkman was saying this in the morning when the most strenuous thing he had done was walk to the kitchen.
The news was very good for the Astros in the health department on Friday. Wandy Rodriguez, Roy Oswalt and LaTroy Hawkins each threw successful bullpen sessions and are close to returning.
Rodriguez, who left his last start Saturday in St. Louis with a hamstring strain, will start Sunday’s series finale against the Brewers. Oswalt, who hasn’t pitched since straining his lower back July 28, will return to the rotation Tuesday against Florida, assuming all goes well with his scheduled bullpen Sunday.
And then there’s Hawkins, who appears like he’ll be able to come off the disabled list when scheduled on Wednesday. Good thing, too, because Doug Brocail went on the DL for the third time this season Friday, this time with a shoulder strain. Could we have seen the last of Brocail? I hope not, but considering his age (42) and medical history (15 DL trips) he could be done.
That brings us to Lance Berkman. Big Puma is still nursing a sore left calf, but said Friday he feels he could play. The Astros, however, are taking a more cautious approach, but based on his comments Friday, it appears Berkman could return by Monday.
If Rodriguez, Oswalt and Berkman return, stay healthy and perform like they did before they got injured, the Astros still have a chance. They’re five games out with 53 to play, so there is no time to waste for the local nine.
The Astros’ poor start in April coincided with Lance Berkman‘s slow start at the plate, and since Berkman went on the disabled list they have lost seven of 10 games. The good news is Berkman could return by Friday, giving the lineup a much-needed boost. They’re just not the same team without Puma.
Of course, if Berkman returns and Roy Oswalt is on the shelf, that’s bad news. Oswalt didn’t feel as good as he wanted to Monday after throwing in the outfield and his start Saturday is still up in the air. Remember when the Astros made their surge late last season? Oswalt led the way with a tremendous second half.
The bottom line is Oswalt is their best pitcher and Berkman is their best hitter and both need to be healthy for them to have any kind of shot. The Astros are back at .500, and they really can’t afford to fiddle around and fall back under the break-even mark. They were four games under .500 in mid-August in 2004 when they took off and won 36 of their last 46 games.
This team isn’t good enough to go on that kind of streak, so they need to start building now. They’re coming off back-to-back wins over 12-games winners in Adam Wainwright and Matt Cain in games started by Bud Norris and Mike Hampton. Just think of the possibilities of Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez are healthy.
At 53-53, the Astros would need to go 35-21 the rest of the way to win 88 games, which may be enough to win the division. The first-place Cubs need to go 32-26 to reach 88 wins. It’s certainly doable, but not without a healthy Oswalt and Berkman.
Just so you know, it’s killing Lance Berkman not be in the lineup for the final two games of the St. Louis series. He admits he’s getting paid too much money to sit on the bench, the but the reality is that Berkman would hurt the Astros even more if he tried to play through his calf strain and went on the disabled list.
There’s a reason I picked Berkman as the team’s MVP at mid-season, and not just because he leads the Astros in nearly every offensive category except for batting average. One of the reasons the Astros got off to such a miserable start is Berkman got off to a bad start. Without him, their lineup isn’t nearly as good.
Berkman said the precedent sent by Astros icons Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio makes it hard for him to sit when injured. Biggio went on the disabled list once in his 20-year career, and Bagwell played through a painful shoulder condition as he career wound down.
“There’s a lot to be said for the way those guys conducted themselves,” Berkman said. “You can’t get away from Baggy and Bidge here because they were the ultimate professionals on the field and played the game hard. Other guys like Ausmus – Brad is the toughest pretty boy I’ve ever been around in my life — he’d catch and have all kinds of things and you’d never know about it.
“They set a standard a lot of guys have followed, and we’ve always been an organization that if we can get out on the field that’s what you should do. We have an obligation to the fans and an obligation to the organization and to your teammates most of all to all to play if at all possible.”
Astros catcher Ivan Rodriguez believes the Astros are in the midst of something special, and he should know. He was the starting catcher for the 2003 World Series champion Florida Marlins, who overcome a slot start to make the playoffs and win it all. The Marlins were 48-45 through 93 games in 2003 (the Astros are 47-46).
“We had a bad first half and we came back and finished 20 games over .500 and were able to get to the playoffs and win the World Series,” he said. “That’s baseball. We have to go out there and play hard every day.”
Astros general manager Ed Wade said he had good reports on Doug Brocail‘s first rehab outing Monday at Triple-A Round Rock. Brocail, who has been out since May 4 with a left hamstring strain, threw one hitless inning with one strikeout for the Express in the first of six scheduled rehab outings.
“Doug had a real good outing last night at Round Rock and threw one inning and had to cover first base on the last hitter he faced,” Wade said. “He threw 14 pitches and went to the bullpen and threw 11 more to get to 25. He came through it great. That’s a big move in the right direction to get him in there.”
Lance Berkman had a swarm of reporters and television cameras waiting by his locker when he arrived at the ballpark Monday, many of whom followed him on the field during batting practice when he stopped to talk with general manager Ed Wade and head athletic trainer Nate Lucero.
Everyone wanted to know if Berkman was going to return to the lineup for the first time since he suffered a mild calf strain Thursday.
“He said he could still feel something in there, but it’s not like a pulled muscle that’s there all the time,” Wade said. “He’s in the lineup and he’ll see. Dr. [Jim] Muntz will be here tonight get a chance to talk to him and take a look at him a little bit, but he felt he was ready to go.”
Berkman doubled into left-center in his first at-bat in the first inning, and he was clearly favoring the leg somewhat. Fortunately for the Astros, Berkman made it into second base easily and didn’t have to test the leg too much.
“When you have a muscle issue for three days you’re not going to be 100 percent better, but I think it’s manageable,” Berkman said before the game.
Berkman felt he needed to get on the field as soon as possible, even if he’s not 100 percent.
“These are important games for us, and it’s just not the Cardinals, but we have a stretch here where we’re facing some tough teams and teams in our division and teams we have to beat if we want to get where w e want to go,” Berkman said. “It’s important for me to be in the lineup.”
Astros catcher Ivan Rodriguez switched his jersey number to No. 77 on Monday. Pudge wore No. 7 throughout his career with the Yankees, but he couldn’t wear that number with the Astros because it was retired last year in honor of Craig Biggio. So, he did the next best thing. He doubled up.
“I was just missing my number and pretty much all my career I have been No. 7,” he said. “I respect that I cannot where No. 7 here because it’s retired, but it’s always a good thing to have two sevens instead of one. “
Picking the Astros’ Most Valuable Player at roughly the midpoint of the season is harder than trying to predict who will win the jumbled National League Central. The only thing that’s certain is a strong case can’t be made for any pitcher other than left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, who is 8-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 18 starts. Roy Oswalt is 5-4 with a 3.81 ERA in 18 starts, but he went seven decisions into the season before getting a win.
More than likely, the Astros’ MVP is going to come from an offensive player. Hunter Pence and Miguel Tejada certainly could make a strong case. They’re the team’s two All-Stars and have been hitting better than .300 for most of the season, and manager Cecil Cooper has thrown his support behind Michael Bourn. But in this corner, the pick is first baseman Lance Berkman.
Berkman was hitting .273 with 17 homers and 51 RBIs entering Thursday. He leads the team in homers, RBIs, slugging percentage, walks and on-base percentage. Sure, he hit .162 in April, but he’s batting .314 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs since, and perhaps it’s no surprise the Astros have played better over that stretch.