Valentin likely out for year
Second baseman's right tibia fractured by foul ball on Friday
LOS ANGELES -- Seated in his locker, his right leg extended, Jose Valentin ran his right hand down the right leg of his jeans and pointed to the point of impact -- ball on bone -- and he winced. He had removed a brace from his broken leg and was pointing to the sore point in his 2007 season with his right pinky, making the point he expressed in these words, "Tough year."
The pinky was in a brace, too.
Say this about Valentin, he is braced for the worst. That worst-case scenario seemingly is that his season is done -- though hardly complete -- and, perhaps, his tour as a Met is done, too. When the veteran second baseman fouled a pitch off his lower leg in the fourth inning Friday night, the ball cracked his right tibia and his career.
The morning after, Valentin knew little more about his future than he did Friday. Doctors had told him "six weeks," but he couldn't say whether that prognosis covered the period he will wear the brace or a cast, or whether that period was likely to pass before he can play. And that lack of information only added another layer of frustration to his season.
Chances are the muscle atrophy likely to occur in only four weeks -- even if there were no fracture -- would make a return to playing in the big leagues before Sept. 1 unlikely. The fracture, the atrophy and the fact that Minor League seasons end in the first days of September -- and therefore the opportunity to play in so-called "rehab" games is eliminated -- all stack up against Valentin.
With Valentin unavailable, the second-base responsibilities fall to Ruben Gotay, Damion Easley (still assigned to the bereavement list), Marlon Anderson and Anderson Hernandez, recalled from Triple-A on Saturday. None of the four is likely to play every day. When manager Willie Randolph spoke of the candidates, he said "Marlon can play in a pinch," suggesting perhaps that Anderson is not as likely as another to play a lot. The club will look for a more suitable replacement.
In the meantime, Valentin is holding to hope that the Mets qualify for and play deep into the postseason and afford him more time to recover.
"I don't know anything for sure," he said.
A conversation with his agent is needed, too. Valentin, 37, is guaranteed $4.3 million for 2008 if he has 400 plate appearances this season. He is guaranteed nothing if he falls short. He has 183.
The chance for 400 was compromised by his assignment to the disabled list -- April 29-June 7 -- because of a partial tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. The rehabilitation of the knee that allowed him to return June 8 did not preclude the need for surgery after the season.
"Everything is my right side," Valentin said, unnerved by the coincidence. "My finger, my knee and now this. How does all that happen?"
What vexed him even more was the ball that struck his leg probably wouldn't have caused damage if it had struck him an inch higher. It would have struck the brace Valentin was wearing for his knee or the wrap that helped to support the leg and hold the brace in place.
"You believe that?" he said. "You don't expect something like this."
But then Valentin recalled a game when he was playing for the Brewers in the 1990s. He saw Luis Sojo of the Mariners foul consecutive pitches off his leg. One of the two -- presumably the second -- broke his leg.
"I don't know," Valentin said. "It might have been the first one. I think he didn't realize it was broken on the first one and just got back in the box. Then he hit it again, and he went down. He knew then, he never stood up. He just crawled back to the dugout."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.