Lance Berkman: 3-hole critical to lineup

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Veteran Lance Berkman, the Rangers' designated hitter in 2013, is looking forward to the challenge of hitting in the third spot in the lineup. It was a spot formerly occupied by Josh Hamilton, who signed a five-year, $125 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels last month.

"It’s an interesting spot in the lineup because it’s the spot that makes the world go around in the lineup," Berkman said. "You need contributions up and down the lineup, I’m just saying that of all the lineup spots it’s the most critical. You’ve got to have someone hitting third that can get on base, drive guys in."

Manager Ron Washington has penciled Berkman into the 3-hole, a spot he's had on some previous teams. He last hit third on a semi-regular basis in 2010 with the Astros (228 at-bats). He was the No. 3 hitter for just about all of the 2007 season, in which he batted .278 with 32 homers and 102 RBIs. In fact, Berkman has more at-bats in the 3-hole than anywhere else in the lineup, though it's just 67 more than at cleanup. He's a career .286 hitter batting third.

"I’m not sitting here with my chest out saying I’m a 3-hole hitter. I think I can do the job, and certainly if I’m healthy and things are going well I think I have a skill set that is suited for that spot," Berkman said. "But by the same token, there are other guys on this team that could easily hit there and if they’re doing a better job, then that’s where they need to be."

Berkman said he feels good and is going through his preparations for spring training. Even though he thought he was probably going to retire, Berkman was working out and getting ready for the season just in case.