Buzz: Berkman ready to contribute

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Rangers veteran Lance Berkman was at his locker in the visiting clubhouse Monday morning when word spread that he was in the starting lineup for the first time since July 6.

"You're playing?" second baseman Ian Kinsler said, feigning amazement. "You nervous?"

Not exactly.

At age 37 and with 1,874 games of major-league experience, Berkman said he's "beyond the point of getting too hyped up" over almost anything on the baseball field.

"I think the main thing is just to go out there and compete," Berkman said. "I'll do the best I can."

Berkman was activated from the disabled list Sunday after a long battle with hip and knee injuries.

"Physically I feel OK," said Berkman, who will hit eighth in the lineup as the designated hitter.

As for how he expects to do in his first game back, Berkman said he'd need a "crystal ball" to know that answer, but he does expect to be able to contribute during the stretch run.

"I don't know how I'm going to be right at first, but if I get enough opportunities I'll be sufficient in that role if they need me," Berkman said.

Berkman is batting .254 with six home runs and 34 RBIs this season. For his career he's hitting .294 with 366 home runs and 1,234 RBIs.

"He's ready to go," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We're going to get him in there and let him see some pitches and see how he feels. ... Lot of experience there. He'll make it work. He's been around a long time.

"I'm not placing any expectations on him. I'll just watch and judge and listen to him."

If Berkman feels fine physically after Monday's game, then he'll be back in the starting lineup again Tuesday against the A's, Washington said.

In four rehab games with Triple-A Round Rock (Aug. 10-11) and Double-A Frisco (Aug. 13-14), Berkman hit .364 with a home run and three RBIs.

Andrus update: Shortstop Elvis Andrus is out of the starting lineup for the second straight day as he continues to rest his sore back.

"He's getting better, but he's not ready for me to put him on the field," Washington said. "We want to make sure. We can't afford to have him go down again. The back is finicky, real finicky."

Andrus tweaked his back Friday then left Saturday's game against Minnesota in the first inning after running from first to third. He has battled back problems throughout the season.

Jurickson Profar is in the lineup again at shortstop.

Ogando making progress: Right-hander Alexi Ogando, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 20 with right shoulder inflammation, threw another bullpen session before Monday's game. Before his session, Ogando said he has been feeling "strong" and making good progress. The next step in his recovery will likely be pitching some "live batting practice" in Anaheim later this week, Washington said. "Then we'll make a decision from there."

Left-hander Travis Blackley is "penciled in" to make another start Saturday in Ogando's place against Anaheim, Washington said. Washington, though, said he "reserved my right to change my mind."

Ogando is not an option that day, but lefty Michael Kirkman and righty Nick Tepesch are. With the Rangers having a day off Thursday, there's also a chance that they skip Blackley's spot in the rotation and have left-hander Derek Holland start Saturday on regular rest, Washington said.

Mind games: Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish, who'll make his next start Wednesday against the A's, has been hurt by late-game home runs in his past two starts, losses to the White Sox and Twins. After giving up two home runs in a 3-2 loss to Minnesota, Darvish said some "negative thoughts" about giving up so many homers had entered into his mind during the game, affecting his typical aggressiveness.

"I try to be aggressive physically and mentally all the time, but some negative thoughts enter my mind sometimes, but you have to always fight against those negative thoughts. But we only had a one-run lead so I tried to keep the game close as much as possible. I was trying not to dwell on it and keep working."

Short hops: The Rangers own a one-game lead over the A's in the American League West entering this series, and Washington said he expects the race "to go all the way down to the end. Those are the division champs over there. I don't expect them to go away. I don' t expect us to go away. Everything goes through Oakland." ... A's rookie outfielder Michael Choice, a product of Arlington's Timberview High School and the University of Texas-Arlington, will make his major-league debut Monday and start as the designated hitter. Choice, the 10th overall draft choice in 2010, was called up from Triple-A Sacramento on Sunday.