Known for bat, Berkman quietly comfy in outfield

Known for bat, Berkman quietly comfy in outfield

Known for bat, Berkman quietly comfy in outfield
PHILADELPHIA -- Make no mistake: the Cardinals didn't pay outfielder Lance Berkman $8 million this season -- or $12 million for next season, for that matter -- for his defensive contributions as an outfielder.

That doesn't mean the Cardinals or Berkman are dismissive of his play in the outfield, a position he returned to on a full-time basis for the first time since 2004, when he was playing for the Astros.

Berkman, who was obviously signed for his bat, had a minus-10.2 UZR (ultimate zone rating) this season. His plus/minus runs saved (rPM) was minus-eight, according to FanGraphs. In short, Berkman's not going to win any Gold Glove Awards in the outfield.

But as Berkman indicated Sunday, he hasn't embarrassed himself in the outfield, either.

"As the season has progressed, I've felt more and more at home out there," he said. "I know a big deal was made out of that, but it didn't seem like that big a deal to me. I'm glad to show I can go back out there and be a reasonably productive outfielder."

Berkman, 35, said it took him a while to get acclimated to the outfield again after spending so many seasons at first base.

"I played most of my career as an outfielder, so going back out there, that felt like it took me maybe a month or so to get comfortable," Berkman said.

Berkman was limited to 122 games in 2010 after having surgery on his left knee in April and landing on the disabled list with a sprained right ankle in August.

With the Cardinals, though, he's been healthy, and his legs have remained relatively fresh.

"I think we've just been really impressed at his conditioning and how his legs have stood up," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "His legs have been a big plus for the spring season and now playoff baseball."