Lance Berkman signed a one-year deal worth $10 million this past week to become the newest member of the Texas Rangers. Looking to fill the voids of Mike Napoli and Josh Hamilton, the Rangers want to have Berkman play in the DH role to keep him healthy. Berkman is grateful for the opportunity to play in Texas. He was on the brink of retirement and was surprised to get a call from Rangers president Nolan Ryan. The signing can be viewed as a low-risk, high-reward situation for the Rangers. Lance Berkman joined ESPN Radio Dallas with Ben and Skin to discuss winning over Texas Rangers fans, his initial worry about passing his physical with the Rangers, embracing the designated hitter role and the process of being contacted by the Rangers after considering retirement.
Do you think it will be a long process to win Rangers fans over after saying you didn’t want to sign with the team a few years ago because they had ‘lightening in a bottle’ with Cliff Lee?
“Well I think they’ll get over it. I consider myself a native son, so Texas people are generally the best. They are the most forgiving around, so I expect that if I play well and if I hit well for the team, that they will be willing to forget about those comments, and I’ve already put that in the past. I will say though, if there is one thing in my illustrious career of putting my foot in my mouth that I could take back, it would be that interview, so all I can do is apologize and hopefully the fans will forgive me and move on.”
Were you at all worried about passing your physical?
“Well, I mean, anytime you are coming off an injury and the Rangers have taken a bit of a risk — they’ve made a huge investment in me even though I don’t consider it from my end, I don’t think it’s risky. I know the condition of my knees and I know that I am willing to put the effort into being in as good of physical shape as I could possibly be in, that will help me prevent injury going forward. But from the Rangers’ perspective and the fans’ perspective, I can understand the trepidation in viewing the signing. I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say I was a little nervous about what the physical was going to show ’cause I haven’t had an MRI on my knee since I’ve had the second surgery. Thankfully,
the MRI came back and the doctor told me it looked way better than he thought it was going to and the only issue he could see was that I needed to continue to work on strengthening my quads and get that knee as much support that I possibly can. I was pretty relieved because that’s what I have been doing this offseason anyway. He just indicated that I needed to continue doing that and it should be OK going forward and hopefully that’s the case. Whenever you are playing at a high level anything can happen. I could go out there and pull a hamstring and it has nothing to do with my knee. I think the risk of injury is there, particularly when you get to be over 35 years old because it becomes more of a factor, but I think with the conditioning and the training staff that the Rangers have, and the things they are going to have me doing, that I’ll be able to stay on the field.”
What is your opinion on filling the role of DH for the Rangers?
“Being a National League guy my entire career, I always viewed the DH with a measure of disdain. I was violently opposed to it at first. I didn’t think it was real baseball when you are playing with a DH. When I first got traded over to New York I sort of had that attitude, but as you learn how to just be a hitter and you kind of get into the routine of it, that I actually grew to sort of like it. I think I have embraced it now because I do feel like it is going to give me the best chance to stay on the field and to be productive offensively as to fill that role. Having had that experience in New York, I think it is going to benefit me greatly going forward with the Rangers in my role.”
Who was the first person to reach out to you from the Rangers?
“Well, it’s interesting how it all came down, because truly in my mind I was OK with retiring and I was sort of enjoying my family in between Christmas and New Years. My parents live up in Fredericksburg in Texas. … We were just hanging out and my agent called me and said, ‘Hey, the Rangers made you a good offer.’ I was like, what? It was out of the blue. I knew they had expressed a little bit of interest to my agent at the beginning of the offseason, but I hadn’t heard much from them since and then I talked to Nolan Ryan. He wanted to kind of gauge my interest with the organization and see where I was from a health standpoint and then it just kind of went from there and we got the thing done pretty quickly. It was combination. Jon Daniels reached out to my agent; I talked to Nolan on the phone. Ron Washington called me and left me a message. I really appreciated it, and Ron Washington said how much they wanted me to come play in Arlington, Texas. After I signed, the first guy I heard from was David Murphy, so I’ve had communication with a few of the guys and I am looking forward to it.”