The absence of Delgado from camp Saturday and the reason for it -- an impingement in his right hip -- and a collision involving his replacement, Marlon Anderson, and Ryan Church in the afternoon only underscored the sense of shortage and added another worry wrinkle to the Mets' face.
The Mets don't need a fully capable, able-bodied first baseman for their Sunday game against the Dodgers; just as well. They didn't anticipate Delgado playing for a few days after an MRI exam administered in Manhattan in the morning detected the impingement -- a restriction of normal motion. Anderson, Willie Randolph's first choice as a replacement, wasn't likely to play either after bruising his sternum in the collision. And Church was likely to miss more time than the others because he suffered a Grade 2 concussion. Church won't play until he is symptom-free, the club said.
The three swelled the number of Mets infirm to 10. Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo, Endy Chavez, Damion Easley and Jose Valentin have yet to appear in exhibition games because they still are rehabbing after surgeries or recovering from injury. Orlando Hernandez now is well behind the other starting pitchers because of a bunion on his right foot. And Brian Schneider was scratched from games the past two days because of soreness in his legs.
None of the scenarios seem particularly serious except El Duque's -- he hasn't found a way to push off the rubber without pain. But as Randolph said, "Enough is enough. You always have aches and pains like Carlos [Delgado], but this thing ... geez."
The collision between Anderson and Church -- in shallow right field near the foul line in the fourth inning of the Mets' 1-0 victory against the Dodgers -- was quite nasty. Anderson and Church, the right fielder, have thick bodies, and their impact was considerable. But given the potential for more serious injury, Randolph concluded, "We were pretty fortunate even though it looked a little ugly."
The clubhouse was devoid of players at 4:30 p.m. ET, when Randolph passed through and saw a fit and upright former first baseman from Brooklyn. But the manager thought better of asking Sandy Koufax whether he could play.
"We still have 3 1/2 weeks to go," Randolph said.
Anderson and Church were examined via CAT scans at a local hospital. Church was dazed and needed assistance from Randolph and trainer Mike Herbst as he walked off the field. Anderson walked off without assistance.
"I don't think it's too serious," Anderson said, some 30 minutes after the collision. "But it won't be feeling too good tomorrow."
He was unsure of what had happened, recalling only that he hadn't expected Church to be so close.
"At the last second, I saw him," Anderson said. "I don't remember hearing anyone call anything. It was right in between. It was nobody's ball. All I remember is that I got the wind knocked out of me."
Church remained in the trainer's room, eyes closed, but emerged 10 minutes later. He preferred not to discuss the collision, a club spokesman said, because he still was groggy.
"He said he doesn't remember anything about anything," media relations vice president Jay Horwitz said.
Church suffered a cut inside his mouth and a sore jaw.
Delgado had flown to New York on Saturday morning to have his hip checked out and to determine whether the pain has been caused by the same malady, a hip flexor, that prevented the 35-year-old slugger from playing 17 days in September. The Mets had said the pain was in the same area.
The problem had developed over a brief period -- the club was unsure how long -- but it came to a head Friday when Delgado told the team's trainers. The club's initial public reaction was that it was not particularly concerned by the problem. Yet a flight to New York to have the MRI exam was deemed appropriate.
Delgado was removed from the Mets' game in Cincinnati on Sept. 4 because of the pain. He didn't play again until Sept. 21. He said last month he had no lingering effects from that injury.
"The moment we heard those words [pain in the hip]," general manager Omar Minaya said, "we decided to get it checked out. ... We don't expect it to be an extended situation."
If it were, the Mets would be hard-pressed to fill the void with a player already in the camp. Minaya mentioned four possible short-term replacements for Delgado -- Valentin, Easley, Olemdo Saenz and Minor League first baseman Michel Abreu -- and said, "I'd be comfortable with any of them." But only Abreu is a first baseman by trade, and only Valentin, a switch-hitter, could provide a left-handed bat.
Minaya didn't mention Anderson as a possible replacement, but Anderson started at first base on Saturday and has played more at the position (179 1/3 innings) than any of the others.
Valentin, 38, still is rehabbing his surgically repaired right knee. And while he has progressed more quickly than anticipated, the club remains unsure he'll be ready to play by Opening Day. Moreover, he has played three innings at first base in his career. The Mets had told him to bring a first baseman's glove to Spring Training when they signed him to a Minor League contract and invited him to camp.
Easley, 38 and his left ankle still an issue, also is unable to play yet. He has played 158 1/3 innings at first base in his career. Saenz, 37 and not particularly svelte, is more a designated hitter/pinch-hitter than a first baseman who played merely 81 innings in the field with the Dodgers last season.
Abreu, who missed all of last season because of an extended visa problem, is 29 and yet to play at Triple-A, though he did lead the Double-A Eastern League in batting and on-base percentage in 2006.
Any extended absence by Delgado would prompt the club to look beyond its roster for a first baseman.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.