ST. LOUIS -- After nearly a six-week absence, during which he underwent surgery on his right knee and did subsequent rehab, Lance Berkman returned to the Cardinals' clubhouse on Monday. His next return -- to the field, of course -- might not be far behind.
Initially expected to be sidelined for eight to 10 weeks, Berkman suggested that he could be off the disabled list as early as the start of the season's second half. That would be in 11 days, on July 21, when the Cardinals end the four-day All-Star break by playing a series in Cincinnati.
And even if that proves to be too aggressive a timetable, Berkman doesn't expect to be delayed much longer.
"The plan all along was get [the rehab started] in Houston to where I could do the baseball stuff, then come back here and do the baseball stuff and be ready to go," Berkman said. "So far it's worked exactly like we anticipated it."
Monday marked the first time Berkman had swung a bat since undergoing surgery to address a torn meniscus and loose cartilage. He hit off soft toss in the batting cage, an exercise he will continue for the next few days, before advancing to on-field batting practice.
He has resumed running as well, doing mostly forward-and-back work. Putting his knee through more lateral movements will come soon. After a month of rigorous rehab on the knee, Berkman has little doubt about his strength.
"The leg feels good," he said. "It's just the rest of me that needs to get in shape. You've got to kind of take a little Spring Training all over again and get back ready to go. I don't know how long that will take. It might jump right back."
Undetermined, still, is whether Berkman will follow all this work in St. Louis with a Minor League stint. He has reiterated several times that he is not a fan of heading out on such an assignment, but he will have missed nearly two months of the season, even if he returns late next week. A rehab stint would give him the opportunity to test his timing against game pitching.
"This is the Major Leagues, the best [players] in the world," said Berkman, who shed about eight pounds during his time away. "After having [been] out for what will almost be two months, I'm going to be rusty. There's no doubt. You just can't expect to jump back in there and be great. That's a question I'm curious about myself. Sometimes it comes right back to you, and sometimes it takes you a little bit. So we'll see."
Freese furthers his Final Vote case
ST. LOUIS -- David Freese said before Monday's game against the Rockies that he wouldn't be voting for himself or asking people to vote for him in the 2012 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by Firestone. But if he continues to perform this week the way he did on Monday, he might not need to do any campaigning.
Freese finished 3-for-4 with three singles and a run scored in the Cardinals' 9-3 win. In his last 11 games, he is batting .386, with five multi-hit games. He's raised his average, from .267 to .286, over that time.
Freese said afterward that he has had a bit of a different approach at the plate over the last two weeks. He hasn't been trying to go deep every time, and is instead focusing on making solid contact.
"I think I'm just keeping it a little more simple," Freese said. "I think for a few weeks there, I got into launch mode a little bit. That will plummet you real quick. I'm more of a guy that tries to hit hard liners, and if they go, they go. That's the type of hitter, and I'd like to just stay that way."
Beltran excited about participating in Derby
ST. LOUIS -- A first-time participant in the State Farm Home Run Derby, Carlos Beltran still has several details to work out. He hasn't chosen a pitcher, nor has the switch-hitter decided which side of the plate he'll take his swings from. He also has plans to discuss strategy with teammates Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday, previous Derby participants.
But details aside, Beltran is clearly excited about the opportunity.
"I think it's great," Beltran said, one day after the Dodgers' Matt Kemp named the Cardinals' right fielder to the four-man National League team. "What can I say? I have no experience in an event like a Home Run Derby, but I'm going to enjoy it."
The Home Run Derby can be seen on MLB.com and ESPN at 7 p.m. CT on Monday. The All-Star Game is on FOX at 6:30 p.m. the following day.
Beltran, whose parents are flying in from Puerto Rico to see him take part in the showcase event, intends to approach his Derby swings the way he would swings during a batting practice session. He also has the benefit of familiarity with Kauffman Stadium, his home stadium for the first seven years of his career. He has hit more of his 322 career home runs at the Kansas City ballpark (61) than in any other.
Beltran expects his experience as a Derby observer to help him as he moves into the spotlight.
"I've been to some All-Star Games before and always stay for the Home Run Derby and watch what those guys do," said Beltran, who has 20 homers this year. "They kind of take a swing, take a pitch, take a rest. They don't try to swing at every pitch, because you get tired if you do that, even in batting practice. You have to pick your spots and look for the ball you can drive out of the ballpark."
Carpenter's throwing session canceled
ST. LOUIS -- Chris Carpenter did not throw off the mound on Monday, as scheduled, though no specifics were provided regarding the reason for the change in plans.
Manager Mike Matheny offered only that he "think[s] he's going to take another day."
A Cardinals official, when asked to comment on the delay, said that the situation would be addressed on Tuesday.
Carpenter threw off the mound most recently on Friday, saying afterward that he felt strong throughout the 40-pitch session. That session came one day after a visit to a Dallas-area specialist, who confirmed that Carpenter is dealing with thoracic outlet syndrome. That condition, which is mostly commonly found in athletes who use an overhead motion, involves weakness, numbness and tingling due to pain in the neck and shoulder.
This is the second time in the past week that Carpenter has not thrown as scheduled. He was supposed to face hitters in a batting practice session last Monday but canceled because of recurring weakness in his shoulder.
Though surgery is typically the preferred course of action for those diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, Carpenter hopes to maintain enough strength in his right arm and shoulder to be able to pitch this season.
Playing in All-Star Game no certainty for Lynn
ST. LOUIS -- Lance Lynn found out on Sunday that he is headed to his first Major League All-Star Game, an invitation extended as a result of being one of the top vote-getters in the player balloting. Whether he'll have an opportunity to pitch in the game, however, remains unknown.
The Cardinals are keeping a close eye on Lynn's escalating innings count this year. Including his work in the postseason, Lynn threw only 115 1/3 innings in 2011. That low total was affected by a two-month oblique injury and a move to the big league bullpen.
But moved into the rotation this year, Lynn has already thrown 97 innings in 16 starts. He contends that the sharp increase in workload hasn't been behind his recent scuffles, but the Cardinals have made it no secret that they are monitoring his work.
As a result, there's a possibility that the Cardinals could ask National League manager Tony La Russa to hold Lynn out of next week's All-Star Game.
"You hate to take away that honor, and it's an honor," manager Mike Matheny said. "There's something on the line, too. We have to lay it out, look at the calendar. It's been no question that we're watching him close and that he's had a lot of innings already. But physically he's responded very well. It's a unique situation to be in an All-Star Game, and we don't want to take that away. We're all going to sit down and figure out the right thing to do."
Likely to work in Lynn's favor is the fact that he is making his final first-half start on Thursday, meaning that he could pitch in the All-Star Game on a normal four days of rest. The Cardinals could also tweak the rotation so that he does not pitch in the first few games out of the break.
And if he does make an appearance, it's would almost certainly be for no more than an inning.
"If they want me to pitch, I'll be more than happy," Lynn said. "When you get a chance to be in a game like that, you want to pitch and show why you're there. Or if they want me not to pitch or something happens to where I'm pitching the first game after, I'll definitely understand."
Third-base coach Jose Oquendo, who missed the last three games due to illness, returned to Busch Stadium on Monday, but he is not yet feeling well enough to return to the field. Manager Mike Matheny said that Oquendo came down with the flu and has also been dealing with a bout of pneumonia.
In Oquendo's absence, first-base coach Chris Maloney has moved into the third-base box. Assistant hitting coach John Mabry has been the first-base coach.
Memphis first baseman Matt Adams is likely to miss at least two more games due to soreness in his right elbow. Adams was bothered by the same issue in late April but missed only minimal time. Once the Triple-A club returns to Memphis on Wednesday, Adams will have the elbow checked out again by the team doctor. Farm director John Vuch doesn't expect the issue to be anything serious.
Minor League corner infielder Jonathan Rodriguez will miss the rest of the season after needing surgery on his fractured left wrist. He sustained the injury on June 23, when a runner ran into his arm as he was reaching to make a catch. He will undergo surgery to insert a screw into the wrist so that it can be stabilized.
In 64 games with high Class A Palm Beach, Rodriguez hit .252 with 16 doubles, six homers and 28 RBIs. A seventh-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, he split time at first and third.
Kyle McClellan (strained right elbow) is scheduled to begin a four-week throwing program on Tuesday. His program will start with a series of long-toss sessions, beginning at about 60 feet.
Outfielder Oscar Taveras was named the Cardinals' Minor League Player of the Month for June; Ryan Sherriff took home Pitcher of the Month honors.
Taveras batted .347 with 18 RBIs, six homers, nine doubles and a .398 on-base percentage last month for Double-A Springfield. In addition, he drove in three in the Texas League All-Star Game last week and will represent the organization in the MLB All-Star Futures Game on Sunday.
Sherriff, who is 5-0 with Palm Beach this season, won three games and posted a 1.98 ERA in four June starts. He struck out 14 in 27 1/3 innings. The 22-year-old was a 28th-round selection in the 2011 Draft.
Springfield outfielder Chris Swauger was named the Texas League Player of the Week after going 7-for-18 with five runs scored and four RBIs in four games last week. All Texas League clubs had an abbreviated schedule last week due to the Double-A All-Star Game.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Mike Still is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.