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Berkman eyes return; could he be on Rays radar?

2

January

As the Rays continue their search for a bat, one name that has surfaced in speculation throughout the offseason is Lance Berkman.

Tampa Bay could use a designated hitter, and that position may suit Berkman, 36, at this stage of the switch-hitting slugger's career.

Of course, Berkman has yet to decide he will even play in 2013, with the potential to stay close to his Texas home and be a volunteer assistant at Rice. But according to a report by Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal Wednesday night, Berkman is talking about a possible return with several clubs.

Berkman is coming off an injury-plagued season in which he appeared in just 32 games for the Cardinals, undergoing two surgeries on his right knee. He is, however, just two years removed from his last All-Star season, when he hit .301 with 31 homers and 94 RBI for the World Series champions.

Depending on his health, Berkman could provide a professional hitter with some pop, and bring a positive veteran presence in the clubhouse.

But if the Rays were interested, Berkman would have to take a sizable pay cut from the $12 million he made last season. In a recent interview with MLB Network, Berkman admitted that money would be a consideration in his decision.

“It's awfully hard to make the kind of money that we're able to make doing anything else and I think I certainly have a realization and appreciation for that," Berkman said. "So, if it comes down to it, there are definitely amounts of money that you just can't turn down.
 
“That is a scenario that could happen although I don't see that as being extremely likely given the fact that I didn't play hardly at all last year. I'm sure a lot of teams would have a question about if I could hold up over 162 games and things like that so there's some factors there that I think are going to limit the offers that I get from some of these teams.”

Berkman isn't the only veteran bat still out there. Another intriguing option is Jim Thome, who boasts 612 homers, ranking seventh all-time. While Thome, 42, wouldn't fit the Rays defensive needs, his best bet may be at designated hitter. Thome, who split last season with the Phillies and Orioles (.252 with eight homers and 25 RBI), still has hopes of winning the World Series and doesn't appear like he's ready to hang it up quite yet.

"I’m not retired,” Thome told CSNPhilly.com last month. “If someone wants me to play, I’d consider it for sure. I feel good. If I didn’t feel good, I wouldn’t even consider it. But I feel good. I’d like to play."

Thome made just $1.25 million last year, and it'll be interesting if an AL club takes a chance at the future Hall of Fame candidate.
 
“At this stage, am I an everyday player? No,” Thome said. “But I think I can still play. The best thing for me is being a designated hitter somewhere. But if an NL team calls, sure I’d consider it. I still feel like I can give a team a veteran presence and get a big hit off the bench.”

Bobby Abreu, who recently worked out with the Red Sox, and Carlos Lee are also still out there.  

-- JOE SMITH

joesmith@tampabay.com

 

[Last modified: Wednesday, January 2, 2013 9:56pm]

    

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