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Rangers (led by Nolan Ryan), others trying to talk Berkman into playing

The Rangers are among teams trying to talk Lance Berkman into playing next year.

The Orioles, Rays and Red Sox also have reportedly shown interest, but the Rangers have a natural geographic advantage for the Houston resident. Plus, they have Nolan Ryan as their team president. Ryan, a former Astros great as well as a former Rangers great, has a connection to Berkman and is said to be spearheading the Rangers' efforts to land Berkman.

Though he clearly is thinking about it, there's still no guarantee Berkman will play.

Berkman, whose knee trouble limited him to two home runs and seven RBI for the Cardinals in 2012, expressed faith he can recover enough from knee trouble to play, telling Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "I can ratchet it up and be ready.''

However, he left open the possibility he still might retire, suggesting any team will have to make it worth his while. Berkman's plan now is to help coach the Rice baseball team.

Speaking about a possible new team, Berkman said, "In a way they have to talk me out of retirement and I know that sounds crass -- I wish it didn't - but it's a big commitment. It can put a strain on the family. If I'm going to play, I'm going to give my heart and soul to the team. But if the carrot's not big enough, the mule isn't going to want to go.''

The Rangers, who have lost Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli (assuming his deal with Boston is finalized) to free agency and traded Michael Young, have looked into top free-agent outfielder Michael Bourn and starting pitcher Kyle Lohse, as well.

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