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Berkman makes progress in adjustment to platoon DH role

New York Yankees' Lance Berkman (17) slides around

New York Yankees' Lance Berkman (17) slides around the tag by Baltimore Orioles' Craig Tatum (15) on a double by Jorge Posada in the fifth inning. (Sept. 7, 2010) Credit: John Dunn

When the Yankees acquired Lance Berkman from the Houston Astros at the trade deadline, they envisioned the longtime slugger adding depth to their already deep lineup.

But thanks to a slow start coupled with an ankle injury that landed him on the disabled list, Berkman has essentially been a non-factor during his first five weeks with the Yankees.

That's why Berkman's strong game last night - he went 3-for-4 with a double in a 6-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles - carried some extra weight with the Yankees. It's the best evidence to date that their top trade acquisition is ready to start paying dividends.

"I've felt pretty good and it's helpful to get some results," said Berkman, who is 15-for-55 (.273) with six doubles as a Yankee. "Really, I haven't felt bad except for maybe the first couple games here. I don't know, I just kind of felt discombobulated."

Considering Berkman has spent his entire career in the National League, it's not surprising that he said the toughest transition has been being a designated hitter. Finding a routine between at-bats hasn't exactly come easy.

"I'm like a nervous wreck," he said after the game. "I'm like a caged lion over there just pacing around and hitting the cage, stretch, hit the cage again and then stretch again. It's like four pinch hits. You get a very limited opportunity to contribute and I want to make sure I'm ready when they call me."

Last night, Berkman started the second and fifth innings with singles to right and he led off the seventh with a liner to centerfield for a double. Only one of those leadoff hits led to a run. With Berkman on first and none out in the fifth, Jorge Posada followed with a double to center. Yankees third-base coach Rob Thomson surprisingly waved Berkman home, and Berkman stumbled as he rounded third. That allowed the relay throw to arrive home at the same time as Berkman, but he slid around Orioles catcher Craig Tatum and slipped his hand in before the tag.

Berkman said it was a good test for his ankle, which he hurt Aug. 15 and put him on the DL.

"When I came around third, I actually kind of jammed it in the ground and it didn't hurt, so that was good," Berkman said. "and I was able to stay upright and not embarrass myself too bad."

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