Season, not career, over for Valentin

Season, not career, over for Valentin

DENVER -- If this is indeed the end of Jose Valentin's playing career, he certainly went out in style.

On the same night he hit a pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning of his Triple-A New Orleans game at Iowa, Valentin called the Mets and told him that he was done playing for the season. He didn't retire -- Valentin still hopes to play next season. But given his injury history and the nature of this latest setback, it's possible that Valentin has played his last game.

"He called me and told me that his injuries are playing a big part," Mets vice president of player development Tony Bernazard said. "Mentally, it's taking a toll."

Valentin, 38, the Mets' starting second baseman throughout 2006 and the first half of 2007, suffered a season-ending leg fracture last July. He underwent surgery to repair a partially torn ACL in his right knee during the offseason, and signed a one-year Minor League contract with the Mets this January.

He arrived at Spring Training with an outside shot to make the club as a reserve, but again had to miss time with a pinched nerve in his neck.

That nerve, along with a bout of right elbow soreness, contributed to his decision to stop playing.

"It was driving him crazy," Bernazard said. "He wants to play. He wants to be here."

Valentin was hitting .182 in 33 at-bats for New Orleans after posting a .320 mark in 25 at-bats with Class A St. Lucie. Before his injury last season, Valentin was hitting .241 with three homers, but more importantly, had become something of a tutor for shortstop Jose Reyes. That role ended when Valentin's injuries forced him out of the clubhouse, and the Mets replaced him at second base with Luis Castillo.

The veteran told Bernazard on Friday, however, that this is not the end. Despite rumblings during Spring Training that he would retire if he could not heal, Valentin expressed his desire to play winter ball, and ultimately to try again for a comeback next spring.

If not, Valentin has repeatedly spoken in the past of his desire to become a coach, and sometime down the line, a manager.

"This game has meant so much to me," Valentin said back in Spring Training. "This is my life. This is what I know how to do. Besides baseball and family, I've got nothing else."

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