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Berkman wants to remain with the Cardinals

Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman told's Matthew Leach that he's planning to keep playing in 2012.

And, despite a second half swoon that has swept the Redbirds from contention, his first choice is to remain in St. Louis.

"This is a great group of guys. I think it has a lot of potential," Berkman told Leach. "Even if things don't go like we want them to this year, I still feel like this is not a team that is rebuilding. It's not a team that's very far away from being right where it needs to be."

Asked by Leach if he would be open to advances from the club about a deal for next season, Berkman didn't hesitate.

"Oh yeah, absolutely," he said. "This would be my first choice."

Berkman pointed out that it's not just up to him where he plays next year. The Cardinals front office will have a say to. But how much he wants to cash in on his 2011 renaissance season will also be a facor.

The Cardinals will be pressed to give Berkman a raise despite his great season with a .291 batting average, 29 homers and 77 RBIs. Besides addressing the Albert Pujols free agency issue, the Cardinals also have tough decisions to make regarding Chris Carpenter's $15-million option, Adam Wainwrght's two-year option that would pay him $9 million in 2012 and holes at shortstop and second base.

But Berkman turned down a two-year, $16-million deal last off-season to sign with the Redbirds for one year at $8 million. So he's already shown that getting the last dollar isn't his top priority.