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Berkman shaken but unbowed by injury

Berkman unbowed by injury

HOUSTON -- A day after the Astros placed first baseman Lance Berkman on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left calf muscle, a disappointed Berkman was surrounded at his lockers by members of the media.

Berkman, who was placed on the DL two days after undergoing an MRI on his calf at The Methodist Hospital in Houston, where he was diagnosed with a Grade 2 strain, said that being put on the shelf was a matter of timing and not wanting to hurt the club by trying to play through the injury.

"I wish I wouldn't have played the last couple of days," Berkman said. "That way I would be a little quicker to get back on the field. But I think at some point you have to try it and I just wasn't making a whole lot of progress. ... I'm disappointed and I don't think it's going to take the whole two weeks, but you don't have many options when you're talking about the disabled list."

Berkman is hitting .273 with 18 home runs, 55 RBIs and 69 walks in 89 games this season, and this is just his second stint on the DL in his 10-plus seasons. The only other time he's spent time on the shelf with an injury was from March 30-May 6, 2005, while recovering from offseason surgery on his right knee.

The five-time All-Star said that had the injury occurred later in the season with Houston in the middle of a pennant race, he would choose to play through it. But after seeing closer Jose Valverde have to be sidelined for 41 games with a Grade 4 calf strain earlier this year, Berkman would rather be cautious and come back fully healthy for the stretch run.

"If we were in September or even late August, and we were still right there, I doubt I would have seriously even missed a game," Berkman said. "But having gone through something like this earlier in the year with Jose, you sit there and you think, 'Well yeah, you can try and push through it,' but then something like that might happen and then you're done for the year. That's the last thing I want and the last thing the organization wants.

"Certainly this is an inopportune time, and clearly not the way I would draw it up. But sometimes you have to do something unpleasant for the overall good of the team. Hopefully this will take care of it and we can move on down the road."

To keep fresh, Berkman will continue to hit off a tee, but he will not run and will try and stay off the leg as much as possible over the next four to five days.

Without their slugging first baseman in the lineup, manager Cecil Cooper said that Chris Coste will be penciled in at first base when the Astros face a left-handed pitcher. Coste is in the lineup and batting seventh on Friday as Houston takes on left-hander Johan Santana and the New York Mets in the start of a three-game series.

The Astros said they have plenty of options besides Coste that they can turn to at first base while Berkman is out, including Geoff Blum and catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who both have experience at first.

"This club is capable of sustaining this type of pace even with having to navigate around not having Lance in the lineup," general manager Ed Wade said. "It hasn't been the case where we've seen everybody climb on the back of Lance for six weeks, or Carlos [Lee's] back for them to carry us. It's from everybody from Lance to Carlos to Miguel [Tejada], to even guys like Chris Coste coming in and filling in a significant role."

Jason Grodsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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