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Cardinals' Berkman battling sore left elbow

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman says his left elbow is sore, but he’ll still play in today’s spring-training opener against Florida.

The elbow on Berkman’s throwing arm began hurting during the offseason as tried to strengthen it in preparation for the move from first base to the outfield.

“It’s just something that I need to be careful with and not let it get to the point where it limits me in any way,” Berkman said.

Berkman has avoided throwing the ball hard in recent days. He played with a protective sleeve over the elbow during Sunday’s coach-pitch scrimmage. He fielded three fly balls during the mock game, but his only throw of consequence was lobbed to cutoff man Skip Schumaker.

Manager Tony La Russa said Berkman would “probably” play in the outfield today. Teams have the option of using a designated hitter in early spring training games.

St. Louis’ manager isn’t so sure about third baseman David Freese, who the Cardinals are also being careful with after offseason surgery on both ankles.

Today will provide the first game action for one of the pitchers hoping to fill Adam Wainwright’s spot in the starting rotation.

Former New York Met Raul Valdes, who signed a minor-league contract with the Cardinals after going 3-3 with a 4.91 ERA mostly in relief last season, draws the start on a day he was scheduled to throw anyway.

Wainwright was originally slated to start today, but the Cardinals learned Thursday he needed ligament-replacement surgery on his elbow.

Valdes is coming off an impressive winter ball season in the Dominican Republic.

“He has the advantage of recently being in competition, so there won’t be a lot of rust that has to come off of him,” La Russa said.

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