Quintanilla cleared to play, in lineup for finale

Quintanilla cleared to play, in lineup for finale

Quintanilla cleared to play, in lineup for finale
WASHINGTON -- Mets manager Terry Collins had already spoken to his boss, Sandy Alderson, about Minor League names ranging from Sean Kazmar to Wilfredo Tovar. Collins feared Thursday morning that he had lost another shortstop to injury, after Omar Quintanilla bruised his left index finger on a diving play the night before.

It turns out the manager's worst fears were unwarranted; after a battery of tests, the Mets deemed Quintanilla healthy enough to play, slotting him eighth in their lineup against the Nationals. But the episode did serve to underscore how thin the Mets are at a critical defensive position.

"If you play shortstop," Collins said, "your name's been mentioned the past few days."

The issue is that Quintanilla is already playing as the team's fourth-string shortstop, behind Ruben Tejada, Ronny Cedeno and Justin Turner. All three of those players are injured, with none of them due back particularly soon. So an injury to Quintanilla would have forced the Mets to proceed with their fifth option, rookie Jordany Valdespin, a natural second baseman who committed two errors at shortstop Tuesday on routine ground balls.

"I already talked to Jordany about it the other night and told him that those kind of games, you don't want them to happen, but they do happen," Collins said. "And at this level, obviously, they become blown out of proportion. But if you're going to play at this level, you've got to learn how to get over it."

Quintanilla is hardly the Mets' ideal choice at shortstop, but he has proven to be a significantly better defender than Valdespin. And defense is important -- so much so that when he heard about Quintanilla's injury, Collins spoke to Alderson about Kazmar, a defensive whiz who was recently promoted to Triple-A Buffalo, and Tovar, who has never played above Class A ball.

Asked early Monday about his level of concern, Collins scrunched his face and said: "Play Valdespin."

"You've got to get the next guy ready to play," Collins said, "so that's what we've been talking about this morning."

That next guy will not be Tejada, who suffered a setback with his strained right quad during a rehab game Tuesday at Triple-A Buffalo. It will not be Cedeno, whose strained left calf will prevent him from appearing in a Minor League game until Sunday at the earliest. And it will not be Turner, whose sprained right ankle should keep him out for at least another two weeks.

For now, it will be Quintanilla, assuming he can keep himself healthy enough to play. An x-ray taken in Washington proved inconclusive, prompting Quintanilla to schedule a second test back in New York to determine whether he has suffered a fracture. He said the injury mostly affects him while swinging the bat, despite the fact that he went 2-for-3 on Thursday and made several fine plays in the field.

"I couldn't really get a tight grip on the bat," Quintanilla said. "But it loosened up. I went out there and grinded it out, and we got the win."