Carlos Delgado retires from baseball

Updated: April 13, 2011, 7:36 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Veteran slugger Carlos Delgado announced his retirement on Wednesday in San Juan, Puerto Rico, saying he was unable to work his way back to the majors after years of being hampered by injuries.

Delgado, widely regarded as one of baseball's most productive hitters in his prime, retired with 473 career home runs and ownership of several Toronto Blue Jays all-time offensive records.

"I always said I would try to return until my body had enough. And my body could take no more," the 38-year-old Delgado said Wednesday. "I've been training two years and recently tried yet again to increase the routine of work, but the swing was not there to compete at the level I want," he added.

"There comes a moment when you have to have the dignity and the sense to recognize that something is not functioning," he said. "You can't swim against the current."

In the 17 seasons he played as an outfielder, first baseman and designated hitter with the Blue Jays, Florida Marlins and New York Mets, Delgado hit 30-plus home runs 11 times and cracked the 40-homer plateau three times. He was an All-Star in 2000 and 2003.

Delgado signed with the Blue Jays as an amateur free agent in 1988 and spent parts of 11 seasons in Toronto. He played one season in Florida before joining the Mets in 2006. He led New York to the playoffs that season -- its most recent postseason appearance -- with 38 home runs and 114 RBIs.

In the 2006 playoffs, Delgado batted .351 (13 for 37) with four home runs and 11 RBIs as the Mets came within a game of reaching the World Series.

Delgado struggled with hip injures his last few seasons, limiting his ability to play. His last major league appearance came as a Met in 2009, as his attempt to catch on with the Boston Red Sox last season ended after five games at Triple-A Pawtucket.

Carlos Delgado
SuministradaCarlos Delgado finished his career with a .280 average and 473 home runs.

The pain that usually struck every training session was too much to endure, Delgado said.

"And this coming from a man who had nine operations," he said. "It is a sad moment as a human being and athlete that some of your abilities aren't what they once were."

Delgado won the Hank Aaron Award in 2000, the Silver Slugger Award in 1999, 2000 and 2003, and the Roberto Clemente Award in 2006.

"The time I played I enjoyed it big," Delgado said of his career. "No excuses, no complaints. When I signed to play professional baseball I knew my body would suffer."

Delgado said he was proud to have represented Puerto Rico in the majors.

"I've always carried the flag of Puerto Rico in my heart," he said. "I respected the game and tried to do things the right way. I can look in the mirror and say 'I did my best.' "

His former Mets teammates cited him as a clubhouse role model.

"He was unbelievable for us when he was healthy, and he taught me how to play the right way," former teammate Jose Reyes said Tuesday in Denver, according to the New York Daily News. "We were one victory from the World Series and he did everything he could to get us there."

Delgado's most complete season may have been in 2000 with Toronto, where he played in all 162 games, collected 196 hits -- including 41 home runs and an American League-best 57 doubles -- and posted career highs in batting average (.344) and slugging percentage (.664).

He still owns Blue Jays records for most runs (889), doubles (343), home runs (336), RBIs (1,058), walks (827) and strikeouts (1,242).

Delgado, who received a rocking chair with a plaque that read: "Puerto Rico Home Run King," said he will dedicate the next six months to his wife and young son and daughter before becoming involved in baseball at a local level.

Lou Melendez, vice president of international affairs for Major League Baseball, said he was looking forward to working with Delgado.

"I have a partner who will help me promote baseball in Puerto Rico," he said.

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Vernon Wells played with Delgado in Toronto from 1999-2004.

"I think it's unfortunate, just because he's so close to 500 home runs. I would have liked to see him get to that number. It's one of the harder ones to get to. To be part of the 500 club would have been special to him," Wells said Wednesday before the Angels played Cleveland.

"If not for the amount of time he played and the strain that you put on your body, he'd have been way past it. But I think he's proven everything he needed to prove, as far as being one of the best power hitters of his generation. He had some of the most impressive pop that you'll see in a ballplayer -- to all fields. And when he hit the ball, it wasn't coming down."

Wells credited Delgado with his rise to becoming an All-Star in the majors.

"He was instrumental in me getting going in my career and helping me becoming the player I am now. He taught me pitchers' tendencies and different things," he said.

"Once I was playing every day in 2002, we started to develop a relationship where we could talk about anything and everything," Wells said. "He didn't talk much about himself. I think that started with his dad and his upbringing. He loved to play the game and you never heard a bad thing about him. He always had a smile on his face and he was a good person to be around."

Florida manager Edwin Rodriguez has known Delgado since the star was in high school.

"At this point and under the circumstances, I think it's good for him to concentrate on the other aspects of his life," he said before the Marlins played in Atlanta. "One thing for sure, he's one of the guys who stayed clean his whole career. That's a plus."

Enrique Rojas of ESPNdeportes.com and The Associated Press contributed to this report.