ST. LOUIS (AP) - Lance Berkman would like to stay in St. Louis, regardless of where the Cardinals finish in the standings.
“I’m sure next year I’ll play somewhere,” Berkman said Wednesday. “Hopefully it’ll be here, but part of that’s not up to me.”
“Oh yeah, absolutely,” he added. “This would be my first choice.
The Cardinals signed Berkman to a one-year, $8 million free agent contract last December and he’s having a big comeback year with 29 homers, 78 RBIs and a .290 average. He’s been healthy, too, appearing in 114 games and making the routine plays in right field.
Berkman’s future is among the big decisions facing the Cardinals in the offseason and could hinge on whether Albert Pujols leaves in free agency. St. Louis also has a contract option on pitcher Chris Carpenter, who has made a strong rebound after starting the season 1-7 and is 8-8 with a 3.57 ERA.
Although the Cardinals are fast running out of time this year, Berkman believes the Cardinals are not far away from being contenders. The Cardinals are 10-13 since acquiring Edwin Jackson and Rafael Furcal at the trade deadline and are 10 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers, who are on a 24-5 tear even after losing in Pittsburgh Wednesday.
“Like I’ve said, this is a great group of guys,” Berkman said. “I think it has a lot of potential even if things don’t go like we want to, like we want them to this year.
“I still feel like this is not a team that is rebuilding, it’s not a team that’s very far from away from being right where it needs to be.”
“I think his intensity is only beneficial to us,” Berkman said. “It’s hard over the course of a long season to maintain focus and intensity like you need to be successful, and he supplies a lot of that.
“The rest of it’s up to us.”
Though the Cardinals have foundered, Berkman said it’s not a tight clubhouse.
“I think you go around and even at this low ebb of the season we’re ready to come back and play tomorrow,” Berkman said. “Nobody’s going on suicide watch or anything.
“We just know we have to start winning games in bunches.”
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