Berkman to have surgery on right knee

HOUSTON -- Astros outfielder Lance Berkman may miss
the start of next season after tearing the anterior cruciate
ligament in his right knee while playing flag football.

Berkman will have surgery within 10 days, the Astros said
Friday, and will need five to six months to recover. The injury
occurred during a church-related function, new Astros general
manager Tim Purpura said.

A three-time NL All-Star, Berkman hit .316 this season with 30
homers and 106 RBI. Berkman, who made his major league debut in
1999, has a .303 career average with 156 homers and 535 RBI.

"I think it was an unfortunate event," Purpura said. "But the
fact that Lance was absolutely and totally forthright with us and
has absolutely accepted responsibility shows the kind of person he
is, the kind of character he has, and from that point of view, it's
an unfortunate incident.

"I mean, players have lives outside of the game, and what they
do with those lives, that's really their decision. They bear some
risks, is the way I look at it. The way Lance has handled this is
absolutely first-class, and what you'd expect from Lance Berkman."

Berkman is eligible for salary arbitration and can become a free
agent after next season. The Astros had been working to sign him to
a long-term deal.

"In all of our guaranteed contracts, there is a prohibition
against (non-baseball athletic activities),'' Purpura said. "Now,
the salary that he was paid for this year and the terms on his
guaranteed contract essentially expired at the end of the season,
so there's really no prohibition, per se, at this point against it.
But, obviously, it has the potential to impact his ability to play
next year."

He said the implications of the injury on the contract talks
were uncertain.

"There's a lot we don't know yet and a lot we won't know for
a while, and that was the absolute last thing on my mind, and
certainly on Lance's mind, too," Purpura said.

He said Berkman probably could begin running 10 to 12 weeks
after surgery and return to baseball activities in four months.

"But I've talked to Lance a number of times over the last two
days and his attitude is he's going to be ready for opening day,"
he said.