ARLINGTON -- Rangers president Nolan Ryan confirmed the club's interest in free-agent slugger Lance Berkman on Friday. "We've talked to him," Ryan said. "We're waiting to hear back from him to see what his level of interest is and if he is going to play again next year." The Rangers like Berkman because he is a proven switch-hitting power hitter who could fill a need at designated hitter and in the middle of their order. He can also play first base and one of the corner outfield spots, but would most likely get the majority of his at-bats at DH. The Rangers have been looking for a DH after trading Michael Young to the Phillies and losing out on Josh Hamilton.
"From a DH standpoint, we feel like he would fit the bill," Ryan said. Berkman, who turns 37 in February, played in just 32 games this past season for the Cardinals while dealing with a knee injury that required surgery. He hit .259 with two home runs and seven RBIs in 97 plate appearances. He played a full season for the Cardinals in 2011 and hit .301 with 31 home runs, 94 RBIs, a .412 on-base percentage and a .547 slugging percentage. "The key with him is if he's going to stay injury-free or not," Ryan said. "But the fact that we're wanting him to play [DH] lessens the chances of him getting injured." Berkman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the Rangers might have a "geographic advantage" for his services, but he is still looking for opportunity and compensation if he decides to play in 2013. "In a way, they have to buy me out of retirement, and I know that sounds crass -- I wish it didn't -- but it's a big commitment, it can put a strain on the family," Berkman told the Post-Dispatch on Thursday. "If I'm going to play, I'm going to give my heart and soul to the team. But if the carrot's not big enough, the mule isn't going to want to go." Signing Berkman might be the final move for the Rangers this offseason. They addressed their catching situation by signing free agent A.J. Pierzynski to go with Geovany Soto, and they reinforced their bullpen by acquiring Joakim Soria, Jason Frasor and Josh Lindblom. The Rangers have looked into adding starting pitching, but Ryan isn't optimistic the club will add a front-line starter before Spring Training. Kyle Lohse is the best free agent pitcher remaining on the market, but Ryan admitted the 16-game winner from last season is seeking more money than the Rangers are comfortable with. "You always need starting pitching, but I just think there is not that much out there," Ryan said. "Am I optimistic about acquiring a starting pitcher prior to Spring Training? Probably not." Right now Martin Perez is the Rangers' fifth starter in a rotation that also includes Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando. The Rangers are also considering the possibility of moving left-handed reliever Robbie Ross to the rotation although that would likely require adding somebody to replace him in the bullpen. "If you went to Spring Training with another left-handed reliever, it would give him the opportunity to accumulate some innings as a starter," Ryan said. "Then you could see how we feel about it."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.