Cardinals land Berkman

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Lance Berkman is headed back to the NL Central, joining a team he knows really well.

The former Houston Astros slugger agreed to an $8 million, one-year contract Saturday with St. Louis, solidifying the Cardinals’ roster ahead of the upcoming winter meetings.

The 34-year-old first baseman/outfielder is a five-time NL All-Star with the Astros and last year batted .248 with Houston and the Yankees, finishing with 14 homers and 58 RBI. Berkman was traded to the Yankees on July 31 and helped them win the wild card.

“I think he had greater opportunities out there financially,” St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak said. “This was just a place he wanted to play.”

The Cardinals have an opening in right field after using a combination of younger players there last season, but Mozeliak said Saturday that Matt Holliday has volunteered twice to move to right if it would help the team. That could put Berkman in left field, a more familiar position for him.

Mozeliak said the team might take the question to spring training.

“Matt’s a baseball player, and I think he’d play anywhere,” Mozeliak said.

The Cardinals are gambling Berkman still can be an effective outfielder. He began last season on the 15-day disabled list after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and was primarily a designated hitter with the Yankees at the end of the year.

Berkman passed a physical Saturday in Orlando, Fla.

“Obviously, it’s a question,” Mozeliak said. “Today he looked in great shape, he’s lost some weight and he feels like he’s running very well. So we have a high level of confidence he can do that.”

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