ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman is expected to miss eight to 10 weeks following surgery Friday on his injured right knee. That's unexpected good news for a player who thought he might miss the rest of the season and perhaps be forced into retirement.
The team said the arthroscopic surgery found a partial tear in the medial meniscus, which was removed. Doctors also found a cartilage tear that was debrided, but judged the ligament sound.
"Great news, as good news as we could get from this," said manager Mike Matheny, who spoke with Berkman after the operation. "The conversation was 'I'm going to be back.' He thought it was probably worse. The doctors were extremely optimistic with what they saw."
General manager John Mozeliak was encouraged, yet guarded at the prospect of plugging Berkman back into the lineup in late July or early August.
"I think in fairness to everything, we should just be patient and see how things unfold over the next couple weeks," Mozeliak said. "But we are optimistic that he'll play again for us this season, and we're hopeful it's sooner rather than later."
The Cardinals could get pitcher Chris Carpenter back sometime after the All-Star break, too, although there's no timetable yet because the right-hander hasn't been cleared to throw. Carpenter has a nerve issue in his shoulder.
"We are still hopeful," Mozeliak said. "There is a level of optimism given the strength he's gained and where he's at in his current rehab program."
Allen Craig is expected to take over for Berkman at first base when he comes off the 15-day disabled list early next month from a hamstring injury, and center fielder Jon Jay is progressing from a shoulder injury. Mozeliak thought Craig would be ready when he's eligible to play June 1 and estimated Jay, who took batting practice Friday without issues, might be just a few days behind.
The 36-year-old Berkman had feared possible damage to the anterior cruciate ligament. Matheny said Berkman sounded surprised when he explained the state of the knee to the manager.
"He tried to explain it to me but it was like using a diagram over the phone and it wasn't working," Matheny said.
"Good thing he's not the doctor," Mozeliak added.
Berkman has played just 13 games this season, also missing significant time with a pulled left calf muscle. The knee injury occurred on May 19.
He was a key part of the team's championship run in 2011, hitting .301 with 31 homers and 94 RBIs in 145 games, and batted either fourth or fifth in his games this season. Berkman will begin his recovery and rehabilitation in Houston, where he spent most of his career and where he had the surgery.