Church puts decision to play on himself

Church puts decision to pinch-hit on his shoulders

NEW YORK -- Bustling through the Mets clubhouse late on Thursday afternoon, COO Jeff Wilpon stopped in his tracks when he saw Ryan Church relaxing on a nearby couch. In Wilpon's arms were three Citi Field construction helmets. He offered one to Church, who plopped it on his head.

"Can't get hurt now," Church said.

Such has been the worry for Church, who returned to Shea Stadium on Thursday after following strict orders earlier this week to stay away and get some rest. Still recovering from his second concussion of the year, Church did some light throwing and expected to resume baseball activities on Friday. And just as significant, he assumed all the blame for an injury that was perhaps prolonged by his insistence to play through it.

"They didn't do anything wrong," he said of the Mets. "When it came down to it, they asked me. I was the final say, and I told them, basically, that I couldn't go out on the field and play, but I could pinch-hit. I told them all it takes is one swing, and I can help this team."

Though general manager Omar Minaya spent much of Wednesday defending the team's decision to use Church as a pinch-hitter even while his concussion symptoms remained, Church insisted that the blame was all his.

Despite sustaining a concussion last week in Atlanta -- his second in three months -- Church wanted to play, and so he did. That was his first mistake.

"I'm not a doctor," he said. "I know who I am, and that being said, I just think I was able to contribute via the pinch hit in that type of situation. I let them know from Day 1 that I wasn't able to play the field. I was straightforward with them in that case."

Church needed until this week to feel "right" again, and he hasn't experienced any dizziness since Monday. Needing to remain symptom-free for 48 hours before he can play in a game, he has now set that clock ticking. So if he continues to feel normal after participating in baseball activities on Friday, he could play as soon as Saturday.

Doing so would allow him to avoid a trip to the disabled list.

"The toughest thing for me is to sit here and not be able to chip in or help," he said. "And that's where I think, really, I got caught up, and it was one of those things where I said, 'Hey, let me pinch-hit. I could be something, and just feel part of this team.' "

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.