CINCINNATI -- Less than two months after wondering if a knee injury could potentially end his career, Lance Berkman is prepared to come off the disabled list before the Cardinals' game in Cincinnati on Saturday.
The official announcement won't come until Saturday, as the club wants to make sure Berkman's surgically repaired right knee continues to respond well. Berkman took extra swings on Friday afternoon off manager Mike Matheny, who threw harder and from a closer distance than is normal during batting practice.
Berkman has been running without issue and participating in defensive work for several days. The Cardinals determined on Thursday that Berkman would travel to Cincinnati with the big league club rather than spend time out on a Minor League rehab assignment.
"We have an urgency to put the best team out there that we can, and I think it's without question what he adds to this team with the intangibles and the tangibles," Matheny said. "We thought there was a way to rush that process a little bit."
The organization also knows Berkman's numbers at Great American Ball Park and wants to capitalize on that career success. Berkman has hit .330 with a .450 on-base percentage, 23 homers and 58 RBIs in 59 games at Great American Ball Park. In comparison, Berkman has hit 16 home runs and driven in 59 in 101 games at Busch Stadium.
Because Berkman did not go out on a rehab assignment, he is expected to ease into game action when he is activated. With Allen Craig, Carlos Beltran and Matt Carpenter all healthy enough to cover first base and right field, Berkman will have that luxury.
"There's really not a whole lot you can fine tune until you get back in there and start playing against live competition," Berkman said. "For me, it's just making sure that I get my body back in shape to swing the bat and where you feel like you can compete when you go out there. I'm pretty much right at that level."
Assuming Berkman does return this weekend, he will beat his anticipated 8-10 week recovery time. Berkman underwent surgery on May 25 to repair meniscus and cartilage tears in his right knee.
Berkman's return will also put the Cardinals back at full strength in terms of position players. The club has played only two games -- May 13-14 -- without at least one position player on the DL this year.