Berkman 2-for-5 in Trenton rehab debut

Lance Berkman

If playing for the Yankees during the dog days of August was one of the last places Lance Berkman thought he would be after a decorated 12-year career with the Houston Astros, imagine his surprise at the detour he had to take through Double-A Trenton last night.

“I’m happy to come down here if they want me to do it,” the switch-hitting Berkman said before going 2-for-5 with a run scored during the first of two scheduled minor-league rehabilitation assignments with the first-place Thunder.

With Berkman batting third as the designated hitter, Trenton defeated Akron, 4-3, in 10 innings before a crowd of 4,833 at Waterfront Park to trim its magic number for clinching the Eastern League East Division to six games.

“It’s better than sitting around at Yankee Stadium,” Berkman added. “At least I’ll get some at-bats. I haven’t seen a live pitch in like two weeks, so it’s not going to hurt me to come and make sure everything’s good and get a little bit of timing.”

Berkman, 34, has been on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained ankle since Aug. 19. He was eligible to come off the DL last night, but will play for the Thunder again tonight before returning to the Yankees’ active roster tomorrow.

In 12 games with the Yankees, Berkman is hitting just .179 with four runs batted in.

Since breaking into the big leagues with Houston in 1999, Berkman has a .296 career batting average with 396 home runs and 1,094 RBIs. He is one of only two switch-hitters in Major League Baseball history to produce two 40 home run seasons.

Mickey Mantle is the other.

Not surprisingly, Yankees fans have been especially hard on the unproductive Berkman since the trade.

“I still haven’t done much with the Yankees, but you understand that those fans have a different level of expectation than most fans,” Berkman said. “You have a lot shorter leash there than you would anywhere else. Man, it’s been a real experience (coming to the Yankees); there’s no doubt.”

The affable Berkman touched on a wide-range of topics, including yesterday’s arraignment of Roger Clemens, his friend and former teammate with the Astros.

“He’s a great guy; he’s a great teammate and was fun to have around,” Berkman said. “Clearly, in the situation he’s in, it’s a bad deal. I don’t wish that on anybody. I feel for him and for his family. Roger’s a guy that has been vehement in his denial, and he’s a friend of mine, so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until this thing kind of resolves itself.

“Because of that, if he was found guilty of doing whatever it is, it’s not like I’d be so surprised that I’d fall over and faint or something. But by the same token, I’m willing to give him every benefit of the doubt.”

Thunder starter Adam Warren struck out six without a walk, but missed a chance to get his fifth victory after closer Ryan Pope blew his third save on an infield single in the ninth inning.

Over his last three starts, Warren has struck out 27, walked two and has yielded just 12 hits over 18Â??nnings.

Justin Christian and Rene Rivera, who singled in the winning run in the 10th, slugged solo homers for the Thunder (79-56).

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