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Can gloveless Lance Berkman outrun a grizzly bear?

2/15/2013

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Lance Berkman brought his humor to spring training, but forgot his glove.

The veteran, who signed this offseason to be the Texas Rangers' designated hitter, said he’ll have one for the first full day of full squad workouts Saturday.

“As a DH, do I even need a glove?” said Berkman, who joked that his favorite player was Bid McPhee, a Hall of Fame second baseman that played barehanded. “I may have to borrow one. It’s kind of weird. For 12 years I never had to worry about it because my equipment guy would pack my locker up in Houston and it would just show up in spring training. And I forgot. It’s an oversight on my part because I’m still fairly new to this ‘switching teams’ thing, to have them have a glove here. It wasn’t on purpose. I have plenty at the house. I should have brought them, and here I am without a glove.”

The Rangers are most concerned with Berkman bringing his bat to an offense that lost Josh Hamilton’s 43 homers and 128 RBIs when he signed with the AL West-rival Angels this offseason. Berkman is slated to bat third, where Hamilton was positioned in the Rangers' lineup the last few years. Berkman’s main mission is to stay healthy and try to get back to the player that hit .301 and had 31 homers and 94 RBIs in 2011. He played only 32 games last year dealing with knee issues.

The 37-year-old Berkman said he’s at “about 80 percent” but could play the field right now if needed.

“Could I get out there and catch a ground ball? Absolutely,” Berkman said. “I think I could do that if I was in a wheelchair. As far as playing in games, I doubt they’re going to run me out there the first week or so, but I think I could do it.”

What Berkman says is lacking is the “explosiveness” in terms of running and the ability to not think about the fact that he has to take it easy on his knees. He’s quick to point out that despite some gray hair, he’s not limping, either.

“If a grizzly bear ran in this clubhouse, could I get away from it? Absolutely,” Berkman said. “I could probably beat you guys out. All I have to do is be faster than one of you guys.”

Berkman said he’s ready to come in and help be a veteran leader in the clubhouse, as well.

“One of the advantages of being old is that these guys are kind of forced to listen to you, even if they want to or not,” Berkman said. “In the baseball totem pole, I’m right at the top and I’m enjoying it and I relish the role of being able to try to bring a team together. It’s not one guy. You can’t rely on one guy to do that.

“It’s got to be a group of guys and it has to be everyone pulling on the rope together, to use a cheesy cliché. We’ve got the guys in here, guys like Joe Nathan and even some of the guys, like Colby (Lewis) that are in the middle of the their careers like Ian (Kinsler) or David Murphy. They can step up and help be that. Obviously, Adrian (Beltre). It’s a tremendous clubhouse group.”