Even before the suspension of Nelson Cruz, inquiring minds were wondering when and if the Texas Rangers were going to add a bat to an offense that could be less than lifeless from time to time.
A big reason for that funk this season has been the underwhelming performances of guys like Elvis Andrus and David Murphy to go with long stretches of futility from Ian Kinsler. Lance Berkman had a monster month and a half to open the season, at least from the perspective of getting on base, but that even quit about mid-May as he went into a tailspin at the plate due partly, at least, to his bad knees and a bum hip.
Berkman hit the disabled list in early July and it was beginning to look like the 37-year-old veteran's career was over. Then he actually tossed around the idea of retirement just prior to the July 31 trade deadline before changing his mind and giving it one last effort to get back on the field.
Now, that time appears to be near as Berkman has played four rehab games with Triple-A Round Rock and Double-A Frisco this week and has performed well at the plate, going 4-for-11 with a homer, and yes, a few walks.
The time should be coming soon for Berkman's return, and when that happens the Rangers will have a decision to make as they'd have to make a corresponding move. The easy choice would be newly acquired (for the second time) middle infielder Adam Rosales, who has yet to appear in a game for the Rangers. But when Jurickson Profar is at DH, there's no backup middle infielder. But then again, if Berkman is back he won't be anywhere but DH, which would mean Profar would probably return to a role of backup middle infielder and get, at most, three starts a week.
Since he's been playing every day, Profar has started to perform better at the plate, and that would be a setback for the 20-year-old if he does go back to a bench role.
With 41 games remaining in the regular season, Berkman could have an impact down the stretch if he can get back to where he was fresh out of the gates to start the season. In his first 41 games this year — 39 of those were starts — Berkman hit .296 with a .408 on-base percentage. He had 10 doubles, a triple, three homers, 25 RBIs and 27 walks, scoring 20 runs.
Those aren't world-beater numbers, but they're nothing to sneeze at either, especially on the on-base clip. And they're definitely better than the numbers Profar will give you down the stretch.
Berkman has a chance to end his career on a high note, and he could start as soon as this weekend.