Mets add Perez, Hernandez; lose Sanchez to injury

NEW YORK -- After stellar setup man Duaner Sanchez dislocated his pitching shoulder in a taxi accident, the New York Mets quickly replenished their staff Monday by acquiring Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez from the Pittsburgh Pirates for outfielder Xavier Nady.

Sanchez was riding in a cab that got into an accident near the team's hotel in Florida on Sunday night, the Mets said. He flew back to New York on Monday and was being treated at a hospital.

The Mets expect to learn in about a week whether Sanchez will need surgery. If he does, the right-hander would miss the rest of the season -- potentially a huge blow to the team's World Series hopes.

If not, he could return in September, according to general manager Omar Minaya.

It's the second time in two years a Mets pitcher has been injured in a taxi. Tom Glavine lost two front teeth in an August 2004 accident while going from LaGuardia Airport to nearby Shea Stadium in a cab.

For now, the loss of Sanchez leaves the NL East leaders without one of their best pitchers, so they immediately went looking for another reliever.

They found one just before the non-waiver trade deadline in the 41-year-old Hernandez, who did a solid job as a setup man for the Mets last season before signing with Pittsburgh in December.

"He's done it. We know him, he knows New York," Minaya said. "We're fortunate to get him under the circumstances."

The right-hander is 0-3 with two saves and a 2.93 ERA in 46 relief appearances with the Pirates.

The 24-year-old Perez has fallen off dramatically after a big season in 2004, when he was 12-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 239 strikeouts -- averaging nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings.

"We gave him up to get what we feel is a very good major-league hitter who can be an important part of our lineup," Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield said. "There were a number of teams interested in Oliver. Sometimes we tend to forget about things quickly, but it was just two years ago that he leads the major leagues in strikeouts per nine innings. We feel Oliver has a bright future, but we have a lot of pitching depth and we were able to use some of it to acquire a good young player."

Nady was batting .264 with 14 homers and 40 RBI in 75 games during his first season with the Mets. He was acquired last offseason from San Diego in a deal for outfielder Mike Cameron.

Nady missed about a month this season following an appendectomy.

The Mets will assign Perez to Triple-A Norfolk and recall prized prospect Lastings Milledge from the Tides to share playing time in right field with Endy Chavez.

Called up when Nady was sidelined, Milledge batted .233 with three homers and 12 RBI during an up-and-down month in the majors earlier this season.

"This kid likes the challenge. I have a feeling he will step up," Minaya said.

The Mets, scheduled to open a three-game series in Florida against the Marlins on Tuesday, have a 14-game lead over second-place Philadelphia in the NL East.

But suddenly, they have a different look, too.

"I think we're going to run more," Minaya said. "We're probably going to be able to cover more range in the outfield, which is going to make our pitching better."

Sanchez has been a key member of New York's outstanding bullpen, going 5-1 with a 2.60 ERA in 49 games. He was acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers last offseason.

Aaron Heilman could assume Sanchez's role as the primary setup man for closer Billy Wagner.

"I really expect Aaron Heilman to step up and do a better job than he's been doing," Minaya said.

Perez reported to spring training last season with the Pirates in poor shape and never did get straightened out. He went 7-5 with a 5.85 ERA and 97 strikeouts.

The left-hander was 2-10 with a 6.63 ERA in 15 starts for Pittsburgh this season before being optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis on June 29. In six minor-league starts, he was 1-3 with a 5.63 ERA.

Each of the Pirates' last two pitching coaches, Spin Williams (2005) and Jim Colbert (2006), has had trouble getting Perez to develop a consistent delivery.

He releases pitches from all angles and arm slots, and that leads to big variations in his velocity. He was regularly in the 97 mph range in 2004 but now often drops into the high 80s.

"He has some upside," Minaya said. "We think Perez has some potential to be turned around."