Hip problem lands Delgado on DL

Hip problem lands Delgado on DL

SAN FRANCISCO -- As recently as Friday, even after Mets manager Jerry Manuel shot a dose of pessimism into his plans, Carlos Delgado stood in AT&T Park's visiting dugout wearing a uniform and spikes.

"He was ready to pinch-hit," Mets vice president of player development Tony Bernazard said.

Now, he is ready to heal. The Mets placed Delgado on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with an impingement of his right hip, in a move that Manuel doesn't anticipate "being a 15-day thing." The Mets, in other words, may have to adjust to life without Delgado for quite some time.

"That's just the way I see it," Manuel said. "He tried a number of things to get better, to get some comfort, but he could never find it. I don't anticipate this being a 15-day thing in my opinion. But I could be wrong. Hopefully, I am wrong."

The impingement of Delgado's hip has caused a slight tear in his labrum, the cartilage in that joint. It's the same class of injury suffered by Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees and Alex Gordon of the Royals, both of whom required surgery.

Rodriguez needed roughly two months to recover; Gordon, after undergoing an identical operation, is expected to miss a similar amount of time. This past offseason, both Mike Lowell of the Red Sox and Chase Utley of the Phillies underwent more complicated operations on the labrums of their hips, but both players rehabbed over the winter and were on their club's Opening Day rosters.

Delgado's diagnosis should become clearer Monday, after he visits with a hip specialist in New York City. He has already left the team and was replaced on the roster by outfielder Angel Pagan.

The Mets originally aimed to make a decision on Delgado's hip by Friday, then pushed that deadline back to Monday in the hope that their first baseman could avoid a lengthy absence. He could not -- and as that became increasingly clear, the Mets saw no reason to continue stalling their decision.

"He never got away from being uncomfortable," Manuel said. "We felt that it was time to make a decision."

Batting .455 with a home run and three doubles over his most recent six starts, Delgado was among the team's hottest hitters prior to his injury. He led the team in home runs last season with 38, hitting 24 of them over the final three months of the season and making a late push for the National League MVP award.

In many places, he is irreplaceable. But the Mets have now been charged with the task of replacing him.

"Obviously, Delgado is a very important part of what we do, and we'll monitor what goes on and what happens with him," Manuel said. "But for the most part, we have to try to get people that we have here ready to go."

Jeremy Reed made his first career start at first base Friday night, and Fernando Tatis started there Saturday. The Mets have also revealed plans to use natural infielder Daniel Murphy at the position, though Manuel said he doesn't anticipate using any of the three there exclusively.

"We'll continue to play everybody," Manuel said. "It gives us a lot of flexibility."

More important than replacing Delgado's pedestrian defense, however, is replacing his bat. Though it would be premature for the Mets to delve into the trade market without knowing the extent of Delgado's injury and the likelihood of surgery, that could be an option if he is shelved for a significant period of time.

Until they know for sure, the Mets will lean on outfielder Gary Sheffield, who hit cleanup Saturday for the second consecutive game. Sheffield, according to Manuel, can replicate some of the "presence" that Delgado had given the Mets on a daily basis, and is hitting .545 with two doubles and seven runs scored over his past three games -- all starts.

The addition of Pagan will give the Mets flexibility to use corner outfielders Murphy and Reed at first base, though Tatis -- an infielder for most of his decade-long career -- should see most of the time at the position.

Pagan, 27, underwent surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow last month. He was the team's fifth outfielder last season until crashing into a wall at Dodger Stadium late in April, ultimately undergoing season-ending surgery to repair the resulting torn labrum in his left shoulder.

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