Vargas, who made two flawed starts with Mets last season, flew to Vail, Colo., on Saturday, seeking a second opinion on the joint that had bothered him for most of the Mets' injury-tortured camp. He knew surgery in Vail was a possibility. Alou already had been lost for at least the first month of the season because of surgery to repair a hernia. These are not the Spring Training cuts the Mets envisioned.
News of Vargas' surgery came to light as Jose Valentin waited to be examined because of what he said was a pinched nerve in his neck. The veteran infielder, who had recovered more quickly than the club had anticipated from offseason knee surgery, said two vertebrae were causing the pinching and the pain. He anticipated receiving an injection of an anti-inflammatory agent that, after a few days, will allow him to resume playing. But he will try other medication first.
Valentin, 38, had experienced a similar problem in 2002 when he played with the White Sox. An injection then was beneficial. He said he was opposed to undergoing surgery, which likely would end his career. As it is, the current problem has undermined his chance to be on the Opening Day roster. Mets manager Willie Randolph, who admires Valentin and wanted him on the team, said the veteran switch-hitter is "behind the 8-ball" now as far as being with New York when it plays its first regular-season game March 31.
Vargas, 25, had virtually no chance of winning a place in the Mets' rotation, even before his problem developed and limited him to one inning in an exhibition game. But he seemingly was an element in the Mets' limited pitching depth. The club has six pitchers for its five-man rotation, plus Jorge Sosa as a spot starter. Vargas might have become the next pitcher in line, at least until Tony Armas, who arrived in camp Sunday after a protracted problem obtaining a visa, is ready to pitch.
Acquired by the Mets in November 2006, Vargas didn't pitch effectively in starts against the Cubs and Rockies last season. He lost his lone decision and produced a 12.19 ERA in 10 1/3 innings. He had bone chips surgically removed from his left elbow Oct. 3.
The club awaits the results of the MRI of Ramon Castro's right hamstring.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.