04/01/11 6:48 PM ET
Berkman believes Cardinals will contend
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
In January, not long after Berkman signed with the Cardinals, he said he couldn't think of a better team in the National League. After six weeks of Spring Training and a season-opening loss to the Padres, Berkman remained unsurprisingly bullish on his new club.
"I think it's no different than what we thought coming out of Spring Training," Berkman said. "I think we've got a great offense. I think our pitching staff is solid. And we're going to play good defense. It's a very, very solid ballclub, and we're going to need to be, because the division is going to be extremely competitive."
Though the Redbirds were held to three runs in 11 innings, Berkman saw things to like in his team's offensive showing in the opener. Every batter except Albert Pujols had a base hit, and though the Cardinals struggled to turn baserunners into runs, they did in fact get baserunners.
"To me, it felt like, every time you turned around, here's another guy that can hurt you, here's another guy that can hurt you," he said. "And when you can put that together like we have here, it can make for a great season."
Berkman was received warmly by Cardinals fans, of course. Those same fans were disappointed by the final outcome, but one game doesn't necessarily indicate what's going to happen in the next 161. Berkman is fairly sure it doesn't.
"When I was a free agent, one of the first things I wanted to be on was a contending club," he said. "And I felt like the Cardinals were my first choice in terms of teams I felt like had a chance to win it. We still feel that way. It's exciting when you have those expectations, and when we have as much talent up and down this lineup and on the pitching staff that we do."
Berkman's responsibilities may be a little greater starting on Saturday. With Matt Holliday out indefinitely following an appendectomy, one of those guys who can hurt you will be missing from the lineup for a while. Still, the Cardinals feel they have improved lineup depth as compared to last year.
That doesn't mean that losing Holliday won't hurt, but it does mean there's confidence in what the club has on hand.
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.