For the second time in a year Lance Berkman has sparked his own retirement rumors amid an injury rehab stint, but this time things are considerably more direct: He told Joe Strauss Friday that he was "leaning toward not playing next year," though he evoked Brett Favre in suggesting he didn't want to announce that specifically until he was completely certain. The St. Louis Cardinals' erstwhile first baseman—he probably lost his job to Allen Craig a few knee injuries ago—is rehabbing with AAA Memphis anyway, and drew a walk in his first game there.
By the time rosters open up on September 1, Berkman should be available for the Cardinals as an expensive, effective pinch hitter, as well as continued insurance for his injury-prone fellows, Craig and Carlos Beltran. But right now he sounds like a guy who isn't about to do what some have suggested he might—return to Minute Maid Park as the Houston Astros' first full-time designated hitter after his former team moves to the American League.
In 28 games this year Lance Berkman is hitting .267/.389/.467 with two home runs and seven RBI. In 2011, a year after looking similarly done between Houston and Yankee Stadium, Berkman roared back for a career-high OPS+ and 31 home runs as the World Championship Cardinals' starting right fielder.