Berkman went on to say that Pujols’ departure surprised him, that a year ago he would’ve said there was no way Pujols would leave St. Louis before adding, “I thought I was always going to be in Houston, and here I am a happy member of the St. Louis Cardinals.”
Berkman expects to make an easy transition back to first base, but joked, “It’s a lot easier to make the All-Star team as an outfielder, I know that.”
So what has changed in Berkman’s preparations for the 2012 season as a first baseman instead of outfielder?
In his best deadpan sarcasm, “I can just relax now. And I’m playing first base, so I can get huge.”
Obviously tongue-in-cheek comments aside, Berkman said not much else has changed about his preparation for the 2012 season, having only slightly modified the off-season conditioning plan that he and trainer Ben Fairchild developed last year used to lose weight and get into playing shape.
“Nothing really changes, I think as you age, you learn that you’ve got to deal a little bit more, you’ve got to be a little bit more conscious of how you prepare for the season and, you know, I learned a lot about that last year and doing a lot of the same things I did. Obviously with a shorter off-season you want to take the time to heal too, so you have to balance it and listen to your body, what it’s telling you. The bottom line is, I’ll be ready to go when we open camp.”
When pressed about last year’s comments about the running outfield being easier on his knees, Berkman responded with a chuckle, “Yeah, I was just joking with y’all.” The Cardinal first baseman went on to say that he doesn’t think much will change from the outfield to first base in terms of the impact on his knees or the rest of his body and fitness, echoing last off-season’s comment that the movements at the positions are just different, not any more or less impactful.
Berkman repeated similar comments heard from the Cardinal players about 2012 expectations, particularly sans Pujols, saying that one player didn’t win the World Series for them last season and that he’s really excited about the construction of the 2012 team.
As for his own expectations and statistics, having experienced a renaissance season in 2011 while winning the National League’s Comeback Player of the Year award, is it unfair for the team and fans to expect Berkman to perform similarly in 2012? “Yeah it’s fair. I mean, heck, if I don’t do that I’ll be disappointed. I think those were pretty close to my career averages, so until I get really old, I would expect myself to be able to produce that.”
Other Berkman tidbits:
- On Tony La Russa’s retiring – “He will be missed, but that having been said, I think the organization picked the right guy for the job, and I’m excited about playing for Mike [Matheny].”
- On whether he thinks Carlos Beltran can still play center field – “I think too much is made of, I mean heck, I hadn’t played the outfield in seven or eight years. You know, I wasn’t Willie Mays out there, but I did a decent job last year. If you’re athletic enough to have done that at some point, I mean the man’s only thirty-five, I think he’s a year younger than I am. While it may not be in his best interests to run out there in center field every single day, there’s no doubt that he could do it. I don’t believe that he’s ready for the rocking chair yet. He runs pretty out there.”
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