Notes: Zambrano out for the year

Notes: Zambrano out for the year

NEW YORK -- The Mets' starting pitching, an issue of depth before the Spring Training emergence of Brian Bannister, is an issue again now that injury has eliminated Victor Zambrano from the remainder of the 2006 season. Zambrano needs surgery to repair a tear in the flexor tendon in his right elbow, an injury suffered Saturday. The Mets' needs are different, a tad desperate and not on the immediate horizon.

Bannister and John Maine, the pitcher who replaced him in the rotation, are assigned to the disabled list. So, too, is Zambrano. And when the extent of Zambrano's injury was made public Sunday, general manager Omar Minaya made it clear that top prospect Mike Pelfrey is not a potential solution for the Mets' problem.

With Pelfrey, the 22-year-old pitcher the Mets selected in the First-Year Player Draft last year, not an option, the club moves forward with Jose Lima, the veteran who started Sunday against the Braves, and possibly Jeremi Gonzalez, another veteran who, like Lima, began the season with the Mets' Triple-A Norfolk affiliate.

Minaya said Saturday that Bannister, though eligible for reinstatement Friday, probably won't be ready to take what would have been his next turn in the rotation Friday night in Milwaukee. And Maine's assignment to DL runs through May 17. Minaya and manager Willie Randolph are reluctant to move Darren Oliver from the relief role in which he has been surprisingly effective.

The Mets are off each of the next two Mondays, and those days off make their needs less urgent. But they will need one start from a pitcher other than Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Steve Trachsel and Lima. That start would come Saturday against the Brewers.

Gonzalez and Alay Soler, the Cuban defector recently promoted to Double-A Binghamton, were mentioned as possible replacement parts.

The patient speaks: Zambrano, a man of few words, spoke at length at Shea Stadium on Sunday, the day after he learned his season is over.

On missing the rest of the season: "It's been very tough for a long time for me to go through all this. I was feeling I can go through all this soreness. It got worse. I was working 200 percent more than what I can do. I tried to keep pitching and pitching.

"I went through soreness like this before. Sometimes it got worse. Sometimes I was feeling better. I'll be honest with you: I haven't been pitching a very healthy game from the first time I got traded. It was hard for me to not have the opportunity to be 100 percent healthy to prove what I can do.

"What I did in the past was the reason the Mets made this kind of trade for me. It was very hard for me to show them what I could do. I know they put out a big effort and it was a big trade the Mets [made] for me. So I thought I could go through all this pain. It only got worse."

"I like to be on the field. This year, for me, it was very important. The way everything is going, this team is going to be in the playoffs and the World Series. I wanted to be here. I didn't want to be a part of the big problem for the team. I wanted to be a part of the team the whole year and be a part of the playoffs and the World Series."

On being hurt since the trade to the Mets on July 30, 2004: "It's hard to say. Sometimes I was feeling OK, sometimes I was feeling worse. Always I go through some soreness. I just keep on working. I was feeling I could go through. But yesterday, when I threw my last pitch, I knew it was over.

"When I was in the bullpen, I was feeling I could go through with it. Not that I was feeling pretty good, but I say that I've done this before, so I can go through."

On not alerting the staff: "It was bad. It was hard for me to quit. I say, I just kept going. I'm know I have big soreness in my arm, and I wanted to keep going. They wanted to take me out of the game. I just said, 'No, I'm all right. I can keep going.' And the last pitch I threw, I felt there was something really bad. I could feel something broken."

On perhaps having pitched his last game for the Mets: "I'm not worried about that. I was thinking 10 years ago when I had Tommy John surgery. I was thinking about everything I went through at that time to get healthy again. My Tommy John is in really good shape right now. I'm just going to work really hard and just fix what I have. It's going to be good for me to stop and fix what really was the problem, because I can't keep going like this, being this sore. At this point in my career, I can just go and fix it and come back to do what I can do."

On the next step: "Right now, I don't know when I'm going to have the surgery. I've got to go back to the hospital tomorrow and find out."

On why he didn't say anything previously: "One of the reasons I didn't say anything was because I was feeling I could go through the pain."

On what the doctors told him: "They told me the flexor tendon pulled off the bone."

This day in Mets history -- May 8: Rookie Ron Swoboda hit two two-run home runs -- one off Denny LeMaster, the other off reliever and fellow rookie Phil Niekro -- in the Mets' 4-2 victory against the Braves at Shea Stadium on this date in 1965.

Sixteen years later, the Mets lost, 1-0, to Dodgers rookie sensation Fernando Valenzuela, who pitched his fifth shutout in seven starts and reduced his ERA for 63 innings to 0.23. The intrigue of Valenzuela brought 39,848 fans to Shea on a Friday night. Hubie Brooks had three of the Mets' hits. Dusty Baker drove in the Dodgers' run against losing pitcher Mike Scott.

Coming up: Leaving the Braves behind in third place, the Mets move on to play the seocnd-place Phillies for a three-game series at cozy Citizens Bank Park. Pedro Martinez tries to stay perfect in the Tuesday night game opposite Brett Myers. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. ET.

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