Friday, October 8, 2010
Lance Berkman wants full-time play
By Ian Begley
Special to ESPNNewYork.com
NEW YORK -- One day after getting his biggest hit as a Yankee, Lance Berkman admitted that he probably won't be back with the Bombers next season.
The Yankees are unlikely to pick up the $15 million team option on Berkman's contract for 2011, meaning the 34-year-old will be a free agent at season's end.
Berkman said on Friday that he has no interest in returning to the Yankees in 2011 as a part-time designated hitter, the role he currently fills for the team.
"No, I don't think so," Berkman said. "I don't like platooning."
Berkman still believes he can play every day and said he'd want to find a suitor who would allow him to return to first base next season.
Berkman first told ESPNNewYork.com's Wallace Matthews after Thursday's Game 2 win that he had no interest in returning to the Yankees next season in the role he currently fills.
The five-time All-Star was acquired by the Yankees on July 30 in exchange for two minor leaguers -- pitcher Mark Melancon and infielder Jimmy Paredes. He struggled early on in his Yankees tenure but rebounded to hit .299 in his last 25 regular season games.
On Thursday night, Berkman hit a solo homer in the fifth inning of Game 3 to put the Yankees up, 2-1. He followed that with an RBI double off of Minnesota Twins starter Carl Pavano in the seventh inning to break a 2-2 tie in a game the Yankees would eventually win, 5-2.
The Astros took on all of Berkman's remaining 2010 $4 million salary when they dealt Berkman to the Yanks in what was essentially a salary dump.
Berkman realizes that the Yankees are unlikely to pick up the option next season, so he said he started thinking about his pending free agency as soon as he came to New York. He admitted that he is unsure of his market value after he produced career-lows across the board (.248 batting average, 14 homers and 58 RBIs).
"I'm going to be 35 next year ... And I had a horrible year statistically," Berkman said. "So I don't know what the market's going to be for a 35-year-old coming off the worst year of his career.
"I can certainly be a lot more competitive than I've been this year and I like to play every day," he added.
Berkman understands why Joe Girardi chose to platoon him this season. He's hitting just .171 right-handed. But he believes that he will hit closer to his career mark of .260 from the right side next season.
Berkman also said that he hasn't had any conversations with Astros owner and close friend Drayton McLane about returning to Houston next season. For now, he's only concerned with helping the Yankees pursue title No. 28.
"If the time comes up, that may happen. But ... my focus is here," Berkman said. "I hope we win. Then I'll deal with all that stuff after the World Series."
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.