ST. LOUIS -- While a 2012 return still remains unlikely and unexpected, first baseman Lance Berkman refused to rule it out on Wednesday.
Such an assertion is surprising, given that the Cardinals characterized Berkman's right knee surgery last week as season-ending. The procedure, Berkman's second of the season on that knee, repaired a torn meniscus and removed additional cartilage. There is typically a four-to-six week recovery time after the surgery.
And yet ...
"I'm not ruling out a return by the end of the regular season with the way it feels. I'm not ruling it in either," Berkman said. "I'm hopeful that if I can get the swelling calmed down from the surgery. All of these are big ifs, but I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility. It felt good enough [Tuesday] just walking around on it that I thought it might be a possibility."
Berkman's knee never felt right after he got hit by a Clayton Kershaw pitch on July 24. The impact came less than two months after Berkman underwent surgery on that knee. Berkman has logged only 21 plate appearances since that incident.
"It dissolved from there and never really felt right after that," Berkman said. "But now it feels right again. It's still sore from the surgery. I can still tell I have some swelling. The things that they did made it feel like at least it's operating normally."
Whether he works his way back toward playing or not, Berkman will continue to be a presence in the clubhouse. He will be around for all remaining home games and will join the Cardinals at Houston next week. Berkman said he also intends to travel with the club if it advances to the postseason.
While Berkman has alluded to potential retirement after the season, he did not declare anything in certain terms on Wednesday. Berkman said he will wait to see what interest he draws as a free agent and how his knee continues to respond post-surgery.
Asked about the possibility of extending his career by sliding into a role as a designated hitter, Berkman did not sound overly interested in such an option.
"I'm not ruling anything out, but by the same token, as I sit today, it's not something that I'm super interested in," Berkman said. "If I don't feel good enough to play the field ... I wouldn't want to just limp around as a DH. If I can't get the thing to where I feel like it's pretty close to 100 percent, then I'm not going to fool with it."