Cheap Seats

Berkman expected back this week

The Cardinals are hopeful that Lance Berkman will be able to re-join the team this week.

The All-Star first baseman and outfielder has been limited to seven games because of a torn calf muscle that originally shelved him for a handful of games but later was aggravated and put him on the disabled list for more than two weeks.

While Berkman's original substitute, Matt Carpenter, has cooled at the plate, the Birds have done pretty well in his absence thanks to the return of Allen Craig from knee surgery. Craig is hitting .421 with two homers, three doubles and nine runs batted in through only 19 plate appearances. 

So, the question is, if Berkman is ready to play, where do you put him?

Originally, there was thought that Carlos Beltran could slide over from right to play center to make room for Craig in right and Berkman at First base. But Craig's better off at first than right because of his recovering knee. And how do you take Jon Jay, who leads the National League in batting average, out of the line-up?

Even after going 1-for-5 last night in a game started by a pretty tough lefty, Jay is hitting .381 and leads the Cardinals with a .429 on base percentage.

Beltran doesn't deserve to sit because he's hitting .280 with a team-leading eight home runs to go along with 20 RBIs and five stolen bases in six tries.

I guess it is a good thing to have too many productive players. But I hope the Cardinals have enough at-bats to go around to keep everybody hot and healthy.

Another problem the Cardinals will have when Berkman is ready to return is who gets sent to the minors to make room for him on the 25-man roster?

Shane Robinson probably has the least upside because of his small size and his lack of power. But he's batting .325 and offers the versatility of being able to play all three outfield spots well.

Carpenter's skills are probably the least unique from a depth chart perspective because he only plays the infield and outfield corners -- and not particularly well. The team has Daniel Descalso to back up at third and Tyler Greene could play there in a pinch. Craig and Berkman can play first base and there are a whole bunch of guys who are capable of playing the outfield corners.

But he hasn't really done anything to deserve a demotion with a .263 average that includes three triples.

Any way you slice it, somebody who doesn't deserve it is going to get demoted to the minors. And someone who doesn't deserve it is going to ride the pine.