Sat, May 13, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Hideki Matsui may be out for season

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL The left fielder was sent to the hospital while still in uniform after diving to make a catch during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox


Hideki Matsui of the Yankees dives for the ball just before fracturing his arm during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankees Stadium in New York on Thursday.


American LeagueHideki Matsui's Major League Baseball consecutive games streak ended on Thursday at 518, and his season may have too.

Matsui broke his left wrist trying for a diving catch in the first inning of the New York Yankees' 5-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox.

Yankees manager Joe Torre estimated Matsui will be sidelined about three months. After looking at Matsui's swollen wrist, New York center fielder Johnny Damon said it's possible Matsui might not play again until next season.

"He's like the Rock of Gibraltar," Torre said. "You don't even think about anything that's going to keep him down."

Mark Loretta, Boston's second hitter, sent a broken-bat blooper into left field, and Matsui landed hard on his glove wrist in an unsuccessful bid to make the catch. Yankees trainer Gene Monahan and Torre went out to check on Matsui, who clearly was in pain.

"When Geno said, `Let's take him inside,' I knew that wasn't a good sign," Torre said.

Matsui was put in an ambulance while still in uniform and was to have surgery yesterday. Damon said the left wrist was twice the size of the right wrist.

"He plays hard. He plays with reckless abandon," Damon said. "And he's still able to go out there and play every single day. That was a given for Joe Torre -- he knew he was going to start Matsui in the five- or six-hole. It's crushing. You don't wish this on any team, and it's happened to us."

In his first three full seasons with the Yankees, the three-time Japanese Central League MVP averaged 23 homers and 110 RBIs to go along with a .297 batting average. He is hitting .261 this season with five homers and 19 RBIs.

Matsui, a 31-year-old who is Japan's most famous baseball star, took pride in his consecutive games streak. Before coming to the major leagues, he played in 1,250 consecutive games with the Yomiuri Giants of Japan's Central League from Aug. 22, 1993, through 2002, then in every game since joining the Yankees the following year.

"He's a guy that you never even think twice about if he's playing or not," Torre said. "He goes in there and he finds a way to help you win -- whether it's with his reactions in the outfield, his knowledge on the basepaths or his ability to hit in tight situations."

New York was already missing a starting outfielder: Right fielder Gary Sheffield hurt his left wrist in a collision at first base on April 29, and went on the disabled list this week. He can't come off the DL until May 21, and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Sheffield might go to Tampa, Florida, for rehabilitation.

For now, Melky Cabrera is the right fielder and Bubba Crosby the left fielder, with Bernie Williams seeing occasional time in the outfield, too. New York planned to bring up outfielder Kevin Reese from minor league Triple-A Columbus on Friday.

In addition, Damon banged up a shoulder and aggravated a previous foot injury making a leaping catch against the center-field wall on a fourth-inning drive by former Boston teammate Doug Mirabelli.

Torre said the Yankees wouldn't push for Sheffield to return more quickly.

"The way he swings the bat, I can't do that. He's not going to be any use to us," Torre said. "Even 80 percent of him, I think the 80 percent, most of that would be scaring the pitcher as opposed to being effective."

Because of a quirky baseball rule, Matsui's streak of games played ended as soon as the game became official.

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