Ailing knee could sideline Berkman for opening day

Houston All-Star first baseman Lance Berkman will have minor surgery on his left knee today and miss two-to-four weeks, a recovery period that could sideline him for opening day.

The 34-year-old injured knee during a baserunning drill at spring training on March 1. Tests showed that Berkman bruised his knee, and he played five games after skipping the Astros’ spring training opener.

Berkman’s knee continued to swell, and team doctor Dr. David Lintner decided on Friday that the five-time All-Star slugger should have arthroscopic surgery.

Astros general manager Ed Wade said the team is confident the injury won’t be a lingering problem.

“We certainly don’t encourage players to have surgery, but if this is an easy fix, it removes the uncertainty that it could occur again,” Wade said. “We think that once it gets addressed, that it’s a dead issue and we won’t have to worry about it anymore.”

Dodgers fall in Taiwan

Manny Ramirez and the rest of the Los Angeles Dodgers had a quiet opening in Taiwan.

Ramirez went 0-for-3 as the designated hitter, and a Dodgers’ split squad heavy on minor leaguers was held to three hits Friday night in a 5-2 loss to a team of Taiwanese All-Stars that opened a three-game exhibition series in Taipei.

Just 24 hours after the Dodgers landed after a 15-hour flight from Arizona, starter Y.C. Lin limited Los Angeles to one hit in four shutout innings.

Dodgers manager Joe Torre said the outfield positioning took away potential hits.

“They were playing deep on us,” Torre said. “They played a good game.”

Short hops

Andy Pettitte’s first scheduled start of spring training was turned into another simulated outing by torrential rains in Florida. Pettitte, 37, was supposed to make his first start of the spring in Viera, Fla., against Washington, but 45 minutes into the nearly three-hour bus ride to the other side of the state, the Yankees turned around when word came the game had been canceled. Pettitte will make his debut Wednesday in Clearwater against the Phillies. … Tampa Bay right-hander James Shields joked he’s already told his wife that nothing is going to change his plans to be the Rays’ opening-day starting pitcher. Not even the expected birth of the couple’s second daughter next month. The Rays open the season at home against Baltimore on April 6 – four days before the baby’s due date. … Injury-plagued Oakland right-hander Justin Duchscherer threw 30 pitches in a simulated game, his first outing facing hitters this spring training. Max Stassi’s line drive caught Duchscherer on his left thumb, which then ricocheted off his right shoulder. Duchscherer fell to the ground but is OK. Duchscherer’s elbow problems began in 2006 and had his season ended prematurely because of hip injuries the next two years. He reported to camp last year but never threw in a game because of right elbow surgery. …Atlanta Braves right-hander Jair Jurrjens managed to make his spring debut, throwing two scoreless innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates before the game was called after three due to showers.