The Astros placed the five-time All-Star on the disabled list Wednesday, retroactive to March 26. That means Berkman will miss at least the first four games of the regular season, including Monday's opener against the Giants at Minute Maid Park. He would be eligible to return to action April 10 against Philadelphia, if the knee progresses.
"Obviously it stinks to have to start the year on the DL, but I'll get off quick and never look back," Berkman told MLB.com moments after receiving the news. "I hate missing any games at all, but as long as it doesn't turn into an ordeal. Really just being eligible to come off [April 10] is good news."
Houston also placed right-handers Alberto Arias and Yorman Bazardo on the disabled list. Arias (rotator cuff impingement and weakness) has not pitched since March 9, and Bazardo (right shoulder strain) hasn't appeared in a game since March 13.
Berkman had arthroscopic knee surgery on March 13 to clean out loose particles in his left knee and was progressing until the knee wouldn't allow him to run Tuesday. The Astros said the timetable for Berkman's return would be two to four weeks, and April 10 would be four weeks removed from the procedure.
"It just became apparent that it really didn't make sense to try to push it at this point," Astros general manager Ed Wade said. "To continue to go out there and try to dry fire for another couple of days didn't make any sense. It's better to take a step back and know the earliest he can come back is the 10th, and treat it accordingly."
After taking batting practice and ground balls at first base Tuesday, Berkman wasn't in uniform and was walking with a limp Wednesday.
"It's cranky," Berkman said. "It's sore and it's swollen, but yesterday was the most I had done on it yet, so I don't think that's entirely unexpected it would react that way. It's disappointing. I was hoping it wouldn't swell back up, but it did. That's part of what I told them. We have five days before the opener and it's still really swollen. It's not rocket science. The thing's got to calm down before I can play."
This is the second time in Berkman's career he will begin a season on the disabled list with knee problems. He underwent surgery on Nov. 12, 2004, to reconstruct a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, an injury sustained while playing flag football, and he missed the first month of the '05 season.
Astros manager Brad Mills said veteran infielder Geoff Blum will be the starter at first base on Opening Day when Houston faces the Giants. Berkman's move to the DL enabled the Astros to create a roster spot for rookie third baseman Chris Johnson, who was told he would make the club.
Berkman, who hit .274 with 25 homers and 80 RBIs last year, was going to anchor the lineup along with Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence. Mills said he is at least relieved to know Berkman could miss only a few games.
"I thought we gave it a good run [Tuesday] to see if he was going to be able to be healthy enough to do some things and that doesn't look like it's the case," he said. "It's not a bad scenario. It's just a scenario that he won't be with us for the first part of the season."
Arias and Bazardo, both of whom were competing for roster spots, will travel with the team to Houston when it breaks camp Thursday and receive treatment under the supervision of head athletic trainer Nate Lucero before beginning throwing programs.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.