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Berkman Set For Spring Debut With Rangers

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 Lance Berkman #27 of the Texas Rangers poses for a portrait during spring training photo day at Surprise Stadium on February 20, 2013 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Lance Berkman #27 of the Texas Rangers poses for a portrait during spring training photo day at Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) – Lance Berkman is ready to take some swings in a spring training game for the Texas Rangers.

Berkman, who has been bothered by a mild right calf strain, is set to make his Rangers spring debut Thursday.

“You need some at-bats to kind of get a good gauge of where you are with your spring,” Berkman said Wednesday. “From a practice standpoint, I feel pretty good. But there’s certainly work to do and I’m sure I’ll find that out (Thursday), just where I’m at, just in terms of timing and bat speed and all of that.”

The Rangers have been cautious with the 37-year-old switch-hitter, a first baseman who will primarily be their designated hitter. He played only 32 games with St. Louis last season because of two operations on his right knee and a left calf strain, and thought about retiring before agreeing to an $11 million, one-year deal with Texas.

Berkman was going through workouts, batting practice and some base-running drills even while being held out of the first six spring games. He is scheduled to be the DH on Thursday against Cleveland, though he said he could play in the field if needed.

All-Star third baseman Adrian Beltre is “still progressing well” from his strained calf, assistant general manager Thad Levine said. Beltre has been going through workouts like Berkman, but the Rangers still haven’t said when he will play his first spring game.

“Beltre is coming along perfectly, really is,” manager Ron Washington said. “That means there’s no setbacks.”

Beltre is skipping the first round of games in the World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic, but could play later in the international tournament.

Berkman first started feeling the problem in his calf last week, only a few days into camp. He has repeatedly said it is no big deal and believes the problem was caused by moving into baseball mode, such as taking ground balls and running, after being doing rehabilitation and conditioning during the offseason.

Texas needs Berkman near the top of the lineup after losing slugger Josh Hamilton in free agency to the AL West rival Los Angeles Angels. Berkman, who will likely fill the No. 3 spot in the batting order that was Hamilton’s, is a .296 career hitter with 360 home runs and 1,200 RBIs in 1,806 regular-season games.

Berkman spent most of his career with Houston before being an All-Star in 2011 with the Cardinals, when he hit .301 with 31 homers and 94 RBIs in 145 games and was part of their World Series championship over Texas.

The longer spring training, with basically an extra week of games, could benefit Berkman.

“So far, it feels like a normal spring training,” Berkman said. “It won’t be extended until maybe that last week or so, but I do think that having that in your back pocket is beneficial from a mental standpoint because you don’t feel like you have to rush to get ready.”

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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