Knee problems are nothing new for Lance Berkman. They’ve been barking at him for nearly a decade now and have cost him all but 22 of his team’s 98 games this season. He took a Clayton Kershaw slider to the right knee — the same one he had surgery on in May — on Tuesday night and has been out of the starting lineup since. Puma did work a pinch-walk last night and was immediately lifted for a pinch-runner.
While Berkman was on the shelf earlier this year, the Cardinals cycled through Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams before eventually just handing the first base job over to Allen Craig. St. Louis has been trying to shoehorn the 28-year-old into the lineup since 2010, playing him at first, second, third, and in the corner outfield spots at various times. They’ve been moving him around because he can flat rake, with a .296/.365/.569 batting line this year and a 141 wRC+ in 587 big league plate appearances. You can’t limit that guy to pinch-hitting/bench duties.
Berkman is again out of the lineup today, but Craig is in right field while Carpenter is manning first because Carlos Beltran is getting the day off. There’s no word on when Fat Elvis will return to the lineup but the fact that he’s available as a pinch-hitter is a pretty good sign that he’ll be able to avoid the DL. If that’s the case, Craig figures to again bounce between positions as the team tries to keep him in the lineup. If Berkman does hit the DL, then finding playing time and a position for Craig will be a piece of cake.
ZiPS projects a .280/.337/.478 batting line with seven more homers (on top of the 14 he already has) the rest of the way, which Craig fans will tell you is probably selling him short. Injuries have been a problem though (four DL stints since the start of last year), and that can easily cut into playing time or worse, production. There’s nothing worse than rostering a player playing through a nagging injury and not performing, kind alike Berkman at the moment. As a fantasy owner I’d rather just have the guy on the DL. Craig has 1B, 2B, and OF eligibility in most leagues, so as long as he’s getting playing time in real life you’ll be able to find a spot in your starting lineup.
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