Church cleared by doctors to play

Church cleared by doctors to play

NEW YORK -- The words the Mets had been anxiously awaiting for weeks finally were spoken Friday. Doctors told Ryan Church: "Play ball."

The Mets right fielder, missing in action since July 5, received medical clearance to resume playing and is to leave the team after a workout Saturday to begin a rehab assignment in Florida next week.

Neither the Mets nor the 29-year-old outfielder provided any sense of when he might rejoin the big league club -- or even precisely when he will resume playing in the Minor Leagues. Both were delighted by the latest development involving Church, however.

He has been lost to the Mets almost continually since he suffered a concussion May 20 in Atlanta. He was inadvertently kicked in the head by Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar that night, and his absence and the uncertainty about his condition have been as damaging and unsettling as any other development the Mets have endured this season.

"He was having an All-Star-type year when he got hurt," David Wright said Friday night after the club announced Church's return. "Getting him back would be a great lift for us."

Church said he might serve as a designated hitter temporarily as "I get my legs back under me." He noted he had experienced none of the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome for weeks.

"It will be good to get back to playing," Church said.

Church had been examined by a neurologist on Thursday. The club still was awaiting test results when the Mets began their 58th game without him on Friday. General manager Omar Minaya said the results of the examination wouldn't dictate a timetable for Church. All they will determine, Minaya said, is whether Church has progressed since last being assigned to the disabled list July 8, retroactive to July 6.

Church's return will add to the depth and left-handed/right-handed balance of the batting order. He has batted .307 with 36 RBIs, 10 home runs, a .512 slugging percentage and a .370 on-base percentage in 57 games and 231 plate appearances. He had 44 at-bats in 15 games between the date of the concussion and his July assignment to the disabled list.

Church arguably was the team's most valued asset at the time of his injury, his second concussion in less than three months. He had suffered the first in a collision with Marlon Anderson in Spring Training.

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