Berkman ready for fresh start in St. Louis
First opener with Cards, in outfield new experience for veteran
ST. LOUIS -- Lance Berkman's 13th Opening Day in the Major Leagues has a different feeling about it, for a lot of reasons.
He's playing the outfield in an opener for the first time since 2004. He comes in facing questions about what he can offer at the plate for the first time in longer than that. And of course he's wearing a uniform other than the Astros' to start a season for the first time ever as a big leaguer.
It's safe to say he's eager to get on with it.
"It's been a great transition," Berkman said of his first Spring Training as a Cardinal. "Obviously it's been a little strange going out there in another uniform, but I'm excited about it. We have a great team, and Opening Day is always an exciting time. It's a nervous time. You want to get off to a good start. So I'm just ready to get going."
So while Berkman understands the appeal of a St. Louis opener, he'd also be just as happy if it were a little less grand. All the pomp and circumstance is just going to delay the one thing he's most eager for: actually playing some ball.
"Not to sound cynical or anything like that, but we're here to play the game," he said. "There's a lot of nerves on Opening Day, and you just want to get going. All the stuff, the parades and the pageantry and that sort of thing is great, and it's a great experience for the fans, but as players, we're like, 'Let's go.' It's tough, because you're waiting and the anticipation kind of draws out and it makes it a little tougher mentally."
Berkman had a rough spring at the plate, batting .182 with two extra-base hits (one a home run in the first game of the spring), one walk and 10 strikeouts. But he came through camp healthy, moving well and eager to put up numbers in games that count. He said his spring numbers don't worry him, even if he'd prefer they'd have been a little spiffier.
"You want to have that good feeling heading into the season, but the reality is that didn't happen," he said. "I still feel like physically I'm fine, I'm healthy. And I figure that I have a track record, and usually that kind of thing, you end up about where you're supposed to be."
Even if where he's supposed to be is someplace new entirely.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.