Brothers' injuries led to K-Rod departure

Updated: April 4, 2010, 2:54 PM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- New York Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez said two of his brothers were injured when one fell asleep while driving several hours from the family's home in Caracas, Venezuela.

Rodriguez
Rodriguez

Leandro, who was seated in the front passenger seat, faces more surgery Sunday after suffering a broken arm, ankle and knee along with fractures to both legs, hips and multiple ribs, Rodriguez said Sunday after rejoining the Mets following a visit to his family.

Rodriguez's other brother in the Chevy truck, Erik, had just taken over the wheel about 3 a.m. Wednesday after the original driver, a family friend, complained of fatigue during the 10-hour drive from Caracas to Apure.

"They were basically in the middle, between Caracas and Apure," Rodriguez said. "They were sitting on the side of the road for four hours until somebody stopped by and picked them up and took them to the hospital. That's when I found out and headed back to Caracas."

The original driver "wanted to stop and told my brother, 'Listen, I'm kind of tired. We need to make a stop,'" Rodriguez said. "My brother said, 'No, I'm OK. I can drive. Just give me the car. I'll take care of it from here.' And then five minutes later he fell asleep and went off the road and went downhill."

Four of the five passengers were not wearing seatbelts and were thrown from the Chevy truck when it began to flip down a slight hill, Rodriguez said. Erik, 24, was pulled out of the vehicle shortly after the accident.

"They broke the window and took him out," Rodriguez said. "And five minutes later the car exploded. It totally exploded."

Erik's injuries were limited to a broken arm, and he's resting at their grandmother's house, according to Rodriguez. Leandro, who is in critical but stable condition, faced more surgery Sunday on his hips. That procedure could not be performed earlier because Leandro, 21, was losing too much blood and needed a transfusion. Rodriguez said he could barely communicate with Leandro during his hurried visit to Caracas.

"He was all medicated," Rodriguez said. "He didn't really open his eyes. He could barely see me. I didn't like to see it and I got out of the room."

After receiving initial treatment four hours from the scene of the accident, the brothers eventually were transported to Caracas for additional medical care. It required a 10-hour drive in a pair of ambulances.

"We couldn't find a helicopter or a plane that could take them," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez indicated he felt a duty to return to the team before Monday's season-opening matinee against the Florida Marlins, but he is shaken.

"It is traumatic," he said after working out with the Mets on Sunday at Citi Field. "You know accidents are part of life, but you never want to see one of your brothers involved in it. When you see him four or five weeks ago totally healthy, and when you go back there and see him with a bunch of IVs, in a bed all with scars and scratches, you don't feel good. It gets to the point where you realize how important your family is.

"I always try not to put my personal life involved with my job. It's difficult because sometimes your mind is going to be over there and your body is here. But I've got to find a way to just wipe it out and make sure to concentrate when it's time to do my job."

Rodriguez, who left spring training Wednesday after finding out about the accident, said he "definitely" thought about remaining with his family rather than returning to the Mets.

"But I've got a big responsibility here, too," he added. "I just decided to come practice and come here. I see they're making a lot of good progress. They're the ones who pretty much told me to go over there and, 'Don't worry. We're going to be fine.'"

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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