Berkman eases into job, Franklin takes a hit - KMOV.com

Berkman eases into job, Franklin takes a hit

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St. Louis Cardinals' Lance Berkman laughs as he stretches with teammates during baseball spring training on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011, in Jupiter, Fla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) By Jeff Roberson St. Louis Cardinals' Lance Berkman laughs as he stretches with teammates during baseball spring training on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011, in Jupiter, Fla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) By Jeff Roberson

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Lance Berkman's first day as a regular outfielder since 2004 was perfect -- no plays to test his skills. One errant pitch made Ryan Franklin's first day as a 38-year-old closer one to forget.  

Both St. Louis Cardinals noted there are 161 games to go.  

"You obviously want to do well at all times, but particularly it's nice to get a couple of hits in the first game," Berkman said. "We've got 161 left so it's one game. That's one reason I don't like the beginning of the season.  

"Because everybody makes such a big deal out of the first part of the season."  

Franklin made the most of his scant save opportunities last year, going 27 for 29. He's 0 for 1 after surrendering Cameron Maybin's tying homer with two outs in the ninth inning of Thursday's 11-inning opening loss to the San Diego Padres.  

The Cardinals can groom young power arms Jason Motte and Mitchell Boggs this season, but they're committed to Franklin, a bearded right-hander who pitches to contact. The blown save was Franklin's first at home since Sept. 19, 2009, ending a string of 15 in a row.

"They went up there hacking, it's good to know," Franklin said. "I'll put it in my memory bank. I'm not going to let this one game, one pitch, bother me for the rest of the year. I'm not worried."  

Franklin lacks the high-velocity strikeout pitch of the classic closer. Minus the fanfare, he just gets the job done and made his first All-Star team in 2008.  

The book on Franklin is he's always around the plate.  

"Normally it's a sign of respect that they don't want to go deep in the count," manager Tony La Russa said. "It was just a get-me-over curveball and he smoked it." 

Maybin went to the plate with an aggressive approach.  

"I was looking fastball, but I know he kind of likes to work away," Maybin said. "I saw it early, I saw it out of his hand and I was able to put a good swing on it."  

The 35-year-old Berkman got a one-year free agent deal to add lineup depth, while willing to concede a bit on defense to find a position other than first base. Berkman had two hits batting fifth, but needed no glove in eight innings on the job with no fly balls to track or even base hits to field.  

The opener was his 871st as an outfielder. He logged 717 games as a first baseman with the Houston Astros.  

"I'm not as concerned about my defense as the media and other people are," Berkman said. "If they hit me the ball, I'm going to catch it."  

The Cardinals have lowered expectations defensively for Berkman, who was replaced by Jon Jay in a double switch. Berkman allows that he's not likely to be making the spectacular plays, but makes no more concessions. 

"I may not have as much range as some guys out there and I'm not saying there's not going to be a bobble here or there," Berkman said. "But I think you can expect that with anybody you stick out there."  

The double switch backfired when Jay was on the front end of the play that allowed the go-ahead run to score in the 11th. Jay lobbed a relay to the infield, a two-hopper that skidded off the infield dirt and got past shortstop Ryan Theriot for an error that allowed Chase Headley to score on a headfirst slide.  

Berkman said he had no problem with the double switch, a logical move at the time given he wouldn't have hit again for eight at-bats.  

"I want to win the game, so if he feels like Jon gives us a better chance defensively later in the game, I've got no problem with it," Berkman said. "I'm an employee and I do what they tell me."  

 (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)
 

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