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Can't catch a break

Piazza out at least six weeks, possibly rest of season

Posted: Tuesday May 20, 2003 6:06 PM
Updated: Tuesday May 20, 2003 11:22 PM
  Mike Piazza Mike Piazza left Pac Bell Park on Friday night in a wheelchair after he heard his right groin muscle pop -- "almost like a guitar string." AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza will miss at least six weeks, and possibly the rest of the season, after tearing his right groin muscle last week.

"It is in the back of your mind. It's the ultimate fear," Piazza said Tuesday. "But I'm not looking at that right now. I just want to get the swelling out."

Piazza saw team physician Dr. Andrew Rokito, who said the All-Star catcher had a Grade 3 strain -- the most serious -- with the muscle partially torn off the bone. Piazza will not need surgery.

"Six weeks is certainly the low end of it," Mets general manager Steve Phillips said. "It's hard to pinpoint beyond that."

When asked if the injury could be season-ending, Phillips said, "It's possible. We don't know. We're leaving it as an indefinite period of time. We can't pinpoint it. It depends on the symptoms and the rehab process."

Man charged with stalking GM
NEW YORK -- A Brooklyn man was charged Tuesday with stalking New York Mets general manager Steve Phillips after a series of alleged tirades at Shea Stadium.

A judge ordered Matthew Barnes, 27, held without bail until the defendant can undergo a psychiatric exam.

Click here for full story. 
 
 

Piazza was the Mets' leading hitter, batting .333 with a team-leading seven homers and 15 RBIs before hurting himself trying to avoid an inside pitch from San Francisco's Jason Schmidt on Friday night.

After a slow start, Piazza found his groove before the injury, hitting .500 (12-for-24) with four homers and nine RBIs in his last seven games.

"The truly frustrating part is I felt like I was swinging the bat well," he said. "I went from a low period to a high period back to a low period. To go from hitting the ball as well as I can and seeing it as well as I can to being on the training table is disappointing."

Piazza, who is on crutches, will begin his rehab after the swelling goes down in about two weeks. While he hopes to come back as soon as he can, Piazza knows rushing will only cause more problems.

"You can only go as fast as your engine permits," he said. "If you hit the gas and nothing is there you can't go. It's baby steps. You have to crawl before you walk. You have to take extra time because if you don't, you could reaggravate it and it's back to step one."

New York started the day in fourth place in the NL East, 12 games behind Atlanta. The Mets will have to get through an important stretch of their schedule -- the next 12 games are against the Braves and Philadelphia -- without many key players.

Piazza is one of eight Mets currently on the disabled list. The players combined are making about $51.8 million this season, included prorated shares of signing bonuses -- more than the payrolls of 10 teams on opening day.

"During the course of the season you're always faced with adversity," Phillips said. "You just have to deal with it. Fortunately for us, even though they aren't Mike Piazza, Vance Wilson and Jason Phillips are both very capable guys."

Piazza is considered by many to be the greatest hitting catcher ever. A 10-time All-Star, Piazza has hit 343 home runs as a catcher -- eight shy of Carlton Fisk's record.

Piazza had more homers and RBIs in his first 10 full years than any other catcher in history.

Piazza has had a trying season. He got suspended in spring training for his role in a brawl, missed time after having a mole removed from his abdomen and found out from the media that the team wanted him to learn how to play first base.

"It's a true test of your faith," he said. "I believe at the end of it all, this will make me a better person and a better player. With everything that's gone on, it has been an unorthodox season."

Piazza has been durable in his career, going on the disabled list only twice before the latest injury. He missed 31/2 weeks with a torn ligament in his left thumb in 1995 and 15 days with a sprained knee in 1999.

Piazza said he originally injured the groin during the Mets series against the Montreal Expos in Puerto Rico in mid-April. He then heard a pop when he jumped out of the way of Schmidt's pitch, then fell to the ground.

He needed help walking off the field from manager Art Howe and trainer Scott Lawrenson and had trouble breathing until the swelling went down.

"It was a little scary," he said. "It was a completely foreign pain. It was like nothing I have ever experienced before." Notes: 1B Mo Vaughn saw a doctor in Colorado on Tuesday, the fifth doctor he's seen as he determines the proper course for rehabilitating his injured left knee. Vaughn might see one more doctor before making a decision. ... Jeromy Burnitz (broken left hand) went 2-for-5 and played center field in his rehab game at Double-A Binghamton. Burnitz, normally a right fielder, will see time in center when he returns.

 
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