Games played streak ends after Matsui breaks wrist

NEW YORK -- Hideki Matsui tried for a sliding catch, landed hard on his left wrist and grimaced.

His consecutive games streak was over at 518 -- and perhaps his season, too.

Matsui broke his left wrist two batters into the New York Yankees' 5-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night.

Yankees manager Joe Torre estimated Matsui will be sidelined about three months.

"Due to this injury, I feel very sorry and, at the same time, very disappointed to have let my teammates down," Matsui said in a statement. "I will do my best to fully recover and return to the field to help my team once again. I would like to thank Joe Torre from the bottom of my heart for having been considerate of my consecutive games played streak these past several years and for placing me in the lineup every day."

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 was clearly 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 had surgery Friday. 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," Damon said.

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

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 and 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, Fla., for rehabilitation.

Cashman wouldn't guess how long Matsui will be sidelined.

"I think it's going to be a long time," he said. "It could be the season. Who knows?"

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 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.

Baseball rule 10.24 (c) states: "A consecutive game playing streak shall be extended if the player plays one half-inning on defense or if he completes a time at bat by reaching base or being put out."

If Matsui had been ejected in the top of the first, his streak would have continued, according to the rule.

He holds the major-league record to start a career, surpassing Ernie Banks' run of 424 consecutive games played for the Chicago Cubs from 1953-56.

Matsui's streak was the longest for the Yankees since Lou Gehrig played in 2,130 straight games from 1925-39, which was the big-league record until Cal Ripken of the Baltimore Orioles broke it in

"For him to come out of the ballgame, we knew it wasn't going to be just a day-to-day thing," said Crosby, whose locker is next to Matsui's. "We do communicate, even though there is a language barrier. It's tough because he was just getting his swing back."