08/17/2004 10:14 PM ET
Zambrano departs with elbow injury
Right elbow inflammation sidelines pitcher
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
DENVER -- The Mets knew that Victor Zambrano was suffering from a case of flexor tendinitis when they acquired him last month from Tampa Bay. Until Tuesday, however, Zambrano's cranky right elbow was not an issue.
|Victor Zambrano discusses his injury with Mets trainer Scott Lawrenson. (David Zalubowski/AP)
But when Zambrano walked off the Coors Field mound after going just 1 2/3 innings against the Rockies, his elbow became a major issue. Officially, Zambrano has inflammation, enough that he is out for his next start. He will return to New York on Wednesday to get examined by team physician Dr. Andrew Rokito.
The Mets wouldn't say how serious the matter was until Rokito makes a diagnosis. Zambrano, however, was clearly confused and scared as he spoke to the media after the game. He said he has been dealing with the discomfort in his elbow for a while but didn't speak up until the pain became unbearable Tuesday night.
"It was very, very hard for me to come out of the game," Zambrano said after New York's 6-4 loss. "I didn't say anything because I know myself. It's not the first time it bothered me. I know my condition and I knew I could start the game, but it got worse. When I started the game I got more worried because my arm was becoming tighter.
"Every pitch, I got more and more worried. I said that I have to stop because it can get worse. I didn't want to come out. It was very, very hard for me. But I haven't been feeling good every day. I knew before the start of the game that I shouldn't be pushing myself."
Zambrano, who was making his third start since coming to New York in the July 30 deal for Scott Kazmir, recorded the first two outs of the second inning before allowing a long double to left-center by Matt Holliday. J.D. Closser then negotiated a seven-pitch walk after which Zambrano trudged off the mound toward the third-base dugout.
Manager Art Howe, pitching coach Rick Peterson and head trainer Scott Lawrenson met Zambrano halfway and had a discussion before the hurler briefly sat down in the dugout. Peterson then accompanied Zambrano into the clubhouse.
"He walked off the mound and said his elbow hurt, that was it," Howe said. "It was bothering him more and more with each pitch. We can't have him injuring himself to a point where he can't pitch. Let's find out what this is and then I'll make a statement about it."
Zambrano, who sprained an ankle in his Mets debut, was making his first start on five days' rest in nearly a month. When he bowed for New York on Aug. 5 he was pitching on 11 days' rest. His next start came on seven days' rest. He was shaky in his debut against the Brewers but was brilliant last Thursday at Shea Stadium, allowing only two hits over seven innings in a 2-1 victory over Houston.
Even then, however, he said he didn't feel right. And though Howe was pleased with the results of that game, he didn't think he was seeing the real Zambrano.
"He's been throwing 92-93 but mostly toward 90 with us," Howe said. "Evidently, he's been dealing with it a little bit. I've seen him in the past come out of the pen and he would rush it up there. Against Houston he was only 92 or 93, but I looked at the results.
"I thought maybe he was just trying to throw more strikes and back off to pace himself. But it sounds like tonight was the first time it affected him to this degree."
Zambrano, 29, was 0-3 with a 5.06 ERA in his last four starts for the Devil Rays as he dealt with the tendinitis. At the time of the deal, New York general manager Jim Duquette said that the club was aware of the tendinitis issue, but after researching Zambrano's condition and having his doctors consult with Tampa Bay's doctors, he and New York ownership were satisfied that the condition was not serious or long-term.
"I know myself and I know how hard I work," Zambrano said. "I think right now I'm a little worried. I know I'm not feeling good. It's hard to say if it's the same spot that was bothering me [in Tampa Bay]."
Zambrano had Tommy John surgery in 1996, but said the pain he is feeling now doesn't compare to what he was feeling back then.
In the last week, the Mets have had to place Mike Piazza, Kaz Matsui and Jose Reyes on the disabled list. In addition, they lost Tom Glavine after he was involved in a traffic accident near Shea Stadium. Zambrano's injury simply adds to what has already become an unbearable situation for Howe.
"I said it couldn't get worse, but sometimes it can," Howe said. "It's got to end sometime."
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.