Zambrano sidelined for season with torn tendon
Inevitably, the Mets will tinker with patch jobs before they have this internal discussion, following up on cursory trade talks they've had with Oakland in recent months: Should we trade Lastings Milledge for Barry Zito as part of our all-out effort?
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The Mets placed Zambrano on the 60-day disabled list Sunday, and said he could be ready to pitch by spring training. Right-hander Jose Lima was brought up from Triple-A Norfolk to take Zambrano's roster spot and started Sunday against Atlanta.
Zambrano left Saturday's 6-5 win over the Braves after facing just four batters, and striking out three. In the second inning, manager Willie Randolph and trainer Ray Ramirez visited Zambrano on the mound to make sure he was feeling OK. Zambrano stayed in the game and, two pitches later, struck out Andruw Jones. He then bounded off the mound, down the dugout steps and into the clubhouse.
"When I threw my last pitch, I knew it was over," Zambrano said.
An MRI exam taken after the game revealed the tear. Zambrano, who came to New York in a trade that sent top Mets prospect Scott Kazmir to Tampa Bay in July 2004, said he has been pitching with discomfort for some time but felt he could fight through the soreness. He hadn't said anything to the team's training staff about the elbow.
"I'm not a doctor," Randolph said, "but I'm sure if we had known we could have taken some preventative measures."
Randolph added that many players play through pain, and he attributed Zambrano's determination to keep pitching to the right-hander's competitiveness.
Zambrano, 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA in five starts this season, has had a hard time winning over Mets fans, many of whom believe New York gave up too much in the deal with Tampa Bay. He missed the final six weeks of the 2004 season with elbow and ankle problems.
"It's very hard for me to not show what I can do," he said of pitching with the pain in his elbow.
Both Randolph and general manager Omar Minaya mentioned right-hander Jeremi Gonzalez, currently in Triple-A with Norfolk, as a possibility to be brought up to the Mets. New York could also move left-hander Darren Oliver, who gave up two runs in four innings in relief of Zambrano Saturday, from the bullpen to the starting rotation.
"We built a team with numbers in certain areas," Minaya said.
Right-hander Aaron Heilman is not an option to start, since both Randolph and Minaya are happy with the performance of the bullpen and want to keep it intact.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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