Nine days ago Lance Berkman went to sleep knowing that he might awake without his right anterior cruciate ligament – actually part of a patellar tendon transplanted in a previous surgery.

Of the three possibilities he faced, two dictated that he be on crutches for up to six weeks and required a minimum-six-month rehab.

Berkman instructed his orthopedic surgeon to transplant ligament from a cadaver rather than his own hamstring because he learned that cadaver tissue was tougher. When Berkman recovered, part of him would quite literally be a dead man walking.

He discussed the potential end of his career with his wife, Cara. The couple had shared the discussion previously as the Big Puma limped through the 2010 season with the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees.

Fearing he would be laid up for a week post-surgery, Berkman moved the procedure from Vail, Colo., to his hometown, Houston. He told friends and media alike that he expected another ligament procedure necessary since he had not been able to straighten his knee since collapsing May 19 on the Dodger Stadium infield.

"Actually I was prepared for anything," Berkman said Friday in his first public comments since surgery.

But in a season flecked with bad injury news – and certainly Berkman's might have ranked among the worst – the Cardinals first baseman emerged to what he describes as "a best-case scenario."