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Friday, November 5, 2004
Berkman to have surgery on right knee

Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Astros outfielder Lance Berkman may miss the start of next season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while playing flag football.

Lance Berkman
Right Field
Houston Astros
160 30 106 104 9 .316

Berkman will have surgery within 10 days, the Astros said Friday, and will need five to six months to recover. The injury occurred during a church-related function, new Astros general manager Tim Purpura said.

A three-time NL All-Star, Berkman hit .316 this season with 30 homers and 106 RBI. Berkman, who made his major league debut in 1999, has a .303 career average with 156 homers and 535 RBI.

"I think it was an unfortunate event," Purpura said. "But the fact that Lance was absolutely and totally forthright with us and has absolutely accepted responsibility shows the kind of person he is, the kind of character he has, and from that point of view, it's an unfortunate incident.

"I mean, players have lives outside of the game, and what they do with those lives, that's really their decision. They bear some risks, is the way I look at it. The way Lance has handled this is absolutely first-class, and what you'd expect from Lance Berkman."

Berkman is eligible for salary arbitration and can become a free agent after next season. The Astros had been working to sign him to a long-term deal.

"In all of our guaranteed contracts, there is a prohibition against (non-baseball athletic activities),'' Purpura said. "Now, the salary that he was paid for this year and the terms on his guaranteed contract essentially expired at the end of the season, so there's really no prohibition, per se, at this point against it. But, obviously, it has the potential to impact his ability to play next year."

He said the implications of the injury on the contract talks were uncertain.

"There's a lot we don't know yet and a lot we won't know for a while, and that was the absolute last thing on my mind, and certainly on Lance's mind, too," Purpura said.

He said Berkman probably could begin running 10 to 12 weeks after surgery and return to baseball activities in four months.

"But I've talked to Lance a number of times over the last two days and his attitude is he's going to be ready for opening day," he said.