Rangers finalize 1-year deal with DH Berkman

ARLINGTON, Texas — Lance Berkman accepted the Texas Rangers this time, and is returning to his home state to be their designated hitter in what likely will be the last stop of his career.

The Rangers completed a $10 million, one-year deal Monday after the 36-year-old Berkman, who played only 32 games last season for St. Louis, passed a physical. The deal includes an option for 2014 that could become guaranteed.

Berkman provides the potential big bat for the middle of the lineup the Rangers were seeking after losing slugger Josh Hamilton and catcher Mike Napoli in free agency. The switch-hitter also adds some versatility to a lineup filled with right-handers, and that works well because Berkman has a .307 average left-handed and .260 right-handed.

Texas also was interested in Berkman when he was a free agent two years ago, after the Rangers made their first World Series appearance. Berkman chose St. Louis instead, saying then he thought Texas was going to be an average team. The Cardinals made it to the World Series in 2011 and won the title in seven games against the Rangers.

Berkman is coming off an injury-plagued season in St. Louis, where the six-time All-Star spent nearly a month on the disabled list early because of a strained left calf. Only a week after returning, he went back on the DL for nearly two months after tearing a meniscus in his right knee that required surgery.

His season ended with a second surgery in September, when meniscus was removed. It was the fourth operation on his right knee.

Berkman, who turns 37 next month, was considering retirement but the Rangers’ offer kept him in the game. Rangers president Nolan Ryan, who also played and worked for the Astros, had publicly expressed his team’s interest in Berkman.

Born in Waco, Berkman went to college at Rice and began his major league career in 1999 with the Houston Astros, who this year are joining the Rangers in the AL West.

After 11 1/2 seasons with the Astros and being part of their only World Series team in 2005, Berkman was traded to the New York Yankees on July 31, 2010. He finished that season with New York, which lost to Texas in the AL championship series, before going to the Cardinals.

Berkman is a .296 career hitter with 360 home runs and 1,200 RBIs in 1,806 regular-season games, all but 214 of those with the Astros. In 34 career games at Rangers Ballpark, Berkman has hit .289 with seven homers and 21 RBIs in 121 at-bats.

The Rangers open the regular season at Houston on March 31, when MLB’s first game of the season will be a Sunday prime-time matchup featuring the new AL West rivalry.

Berkman was an All-Star in 2011 when he hit .301 with 31 homers and 94 RBIs in 145 games. His injuries last season limited him to 81 at-bats, and hit .259 with two homers and seven RBIs.

Besides losing Hamilton and Napoli in free agency, the Rangers traded Michael Young — their longest-tenured player after 12 seasons — to Philadelphia.

Texas signed free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski to a $7.5 million, one-year contract. Pierzynski, who turned 36 last month after signing with the Rangers, is a .284 hitter in 1,629 career games with Minnesota (1998-2003), San Francisco (2004) and the Chicago White Sox (2005-12). He was part of a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005, when they swept Houston in four games.

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