Healthy Berkman will be Rangers' designated hitter

ARLINGTON -- Lance Berkman said on Monday that his right knee is structurally sound and will be strong enough for full-time action when the Texas Rangers open the 2013 season March 31.

The native Texan said that he could even play first base.

But that won't be needed after Berkman signed a one-year, $11 million contract to be the Rangers' primary designated hitter. The move also has Mitch Moreland set to be the Rangers' first baseman.

General manager Jon Daniels said that the Rangers won't force the issue with top prospect Jurickson Profar to start the season, leaving Ian Kinsler at second and Moreland at first.

It's the best thing to do, said Daniels, who believes the Berkman signing and the aligning of the infield will serve as the Rangers' final big moves of the off-season.

"As we sit here right now, outside of some internal invites, we don't need to make any other additions," Daniels said.

"I think every player acquisition has some sort of risk. I think the big thing is, if you look at Lance's career and the type of hitter he is and what he brings, if he's healthy, he's going to produce. I'm very confident in that."

Berkman, who turns 37 next month, said that he was leaning toward retirement most of the off-season, though he approached it as if he would prepare to play in case the right deal came together.

It did, between Christmas and New Year's Day, when the Rangers grabbed his attention with a significant offer.

The deal, which became official when he passed a physical, includes a $1 million buyout and a $13 million vesting option for 2014 if he reaches 550 plate appearances.

If he doesn't, the Rangers can bring him back on a club option for $12 million.

"I spent the first part of the off-season really feeling like I was going to retire," Berkman said. "The Rangers made a very strong offer that really got my attention."

But the health of his right knee was also part of the equation, and nothing has happened this off-season to tell him that he won't be able to be a productive player for the Rangers.

"I like where I am right now as far as the structural condition of the knee," said Berkman, who was limited to only 32 games last year with St. Louis. "As we sit here on Jan. 7, I think it's about as good as could be expected after the trauma that I experienced last year. I know that doesn't allay many concerns, but that's the deal.

"I'm not worried about it. I feel good about it. I feel like I'm going to be healthy and I'm going to be productive."

Berkman also likes what he sees with the Rangers' roster. He believes the pitching staff is as good as any other in the American League West, and the lineup will be productive throughout.

Kinsler will sit atop the lineup, and Moreland will likely be toward the bottom in what could be a make-or-break year for him.

The Rangers will have Profar and Mike Olt at the ready if an opportunity for regular playing time is presented. Otherwise, the top prospects will likely start the season at Triple A Round Rock.

"It's better that way," Daniels said. "It's more natural. It's less pressure on young guys. It's less adjustment for the other guys.

"The bottom line is that with all our options, only good things can happen."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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