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Berkman's Role Will Shrink This Week

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Berkman's Role Will Shrink This Week

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Infielder Lance Berkman.

With Interleague play being in the fold throughout the season now after the realignment that evened out the two leagues, the Texas Rangers will be playing in National League parks more than just during two stretches a year like in the past.

The first time the Rangers will play under National League rules (pitchers hit, no DH, more strategy) will be a three-game series at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs running from Tuesday to Thursday, and as a result, the Rangers' best hitter so far this season will probably be nothing more than a bench player ready to pinch-hit in key late-game situations.

That's because Lance Berkman, the 37-year-old designated hitter in his first year as a Ranger, is likely to not get a start in this series, and maybe one at the most thanks to his aging knees that have both been surgically repaired. It's going to be cold in Chicago, with high temperatures in the 40s and 50s, which is even more reason to bench Berkman and reduce any risk of those knees flaring up.

That's bad news for the Rangers' offense as Berkman is the club's leading hitter through the first 13 games, hitting .389 with a .500 on-base percentage and a 1.111 OPS (all team-highs). He's also leading in slugging percentage at .611 among regulars (Leury Garcia's is actually higher, but in just six at-bats).

The NL rules will be a test to see what the Rangers' bench looks like in the event the club gets back to the World Series for the third time in four seasons, as that was a big issue in the previous World Series appearances (losses to San Francisco and St. Louis). The managing skills of Ron Washington will also be put to the test as that was called into question in the two losses, although his shortcomings were much more evident in 2010 than in 2011.

So someone else will have to step up at the plate with Berkman limited this week. Who will it be? Adrian Beltre (.224)? Elvis Andrus (.220)? David Murphy (.160)? Mitch Moreland (.190)? It'll have to be someone, or the Rangers could be in trouble in this three-game set.

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