Hawkins, Berkman close to returning

Hawkins, Berkman close to returning

MIAMI -- Astros reliever LaTroy Hawkins came through his simulated game Monday without any problems and is expected to be activated from the 15-day disabled list Wednesday.

Hawkins, who has been on the DL since July 28 with shingles, threw 29 pitches to hitters at Land Shark Stadium without incident. He began suffering debilitating back pain just before the second half of the season and was soon diagnosed with shingles.

"It's still weird," he said. "It ain't over yet, but it's still weird. I'm feeling ... a lot better, but I'm still having aftershocks. Just like every now and then you get a little jolt."

Astros manager Cecil Cooper said he plans to activate Hawkins on Wednesday, if he feels good Tuesday. Hawkins is 1-4 with a 2.32 ERA and 10 saves in 44 games this season. He will likely step into the setup role, considering Doug Brocail is on the disabled list with a shoulder strain.

Meanwhile, first baseman Lance Berkman said he could return to action as soon as Tuesday. He's been on the disabled list since July 23 with a strained left calf and has been making slow progress. Berkman said he hoped to run and field ground balls Monday.

"I would be surprised if it wasn't tomorrow or Wednesday [when I return]," Berkman said upon arriving at Land Shark Stadium on Monday.

The Astros were averaging 4.23 runs per game before Berkman went on the disabled list and have been averaging 3.50 runs per game since.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.