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Mets' Valentin unsure about future after being placed on DL

LOS ANGELES -- Jose Valentin trudged into the New York Mets'
clubhouse, discarded his crutches after sitting down at his locker,
then slowly removed the soft cast protecting the broken shin that
landed him on the disabled list Saturday for the second time this
season.

All Valentin can do now is wait patiently to see how this latest
injury pans out -- and if he will ever play another game for the
Mets.

"I'm pretty sure that this team is going to be playing all the
way through the World Series, so hopefully I'll be able to play in
the postseason," Valentin said. "That's the good thing about it.
Hopefully, I can be in a situation to help the team win. But I
can't [predict] that right now, because I don't know how it's going
to be after I get back."

The injury occurred in the fourth inning of Friday night's 4-1
victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers when Valentin fouled a pitch
off his leg. When the team returns to New York, doctors will
replace the soft cast with a more conventional one.

The ball struck him just below the brace he had been wearing for
the past 5½ weeks since he partially tore a ligament in his knee.
An inch or two higher, and he'd still be playing.

"I've seen a lot of guys using shin guards, but I'm one of
those guys who doesn't like to use those things. Besides, it
doesn't happen too often to me," Valentin said. "If the ball's
going to hit you, it's going to no matter what you're wearing. I
mean, catchers use more protection than we do and they get hit all
the time behind the plate."

Valentin played in 29 games after injuring his knee. He had
planned to put off surgery on his knee until after the season in
part because of a $4.3 million team option for next year that would
become guaranteed if he reached 400 plate appearances.

"That's going to make it even worse. Now it's going to be
impossible to get that many at-bats," said Valentin, batting .240
with three homers, 18 RBIs in 166 at-bats in 51 games. "But I
wasn't worried about that [before the injury]. I was more concerned
about staying healthy for the rest of the year."

Valentin was on the DL three times before this season -- in 1997
due to a fractured left middle finger, in 1999 with a torn ligament
in his left thumb, and in 2001 with a strained right hamstring.

"I just want to get through this and get healthy again,"
Valentin said. "If I have enough time to go, I'll go. If not, I'll
shut down and wait to see what happens next year. I don't want to
just go out there at 50 or 60 percent and not be able to play the
way I want and help the team. It doesn't make any sense. Time is
going to decide what's going to happen. Right now I'm in limbo."

Ruben Gotay, already a pleasant surprise for the Mets, figures
to get even more playing time at second base until Valentin
returns. Middle infielder Anderson Hernandez, who was recalled from
Triple-A New Orleans Saturday to fill the vacant roster spot, also
can fill in there. So can newly acquired outfielder Marlon Anderson
in a pinch, manager Willie Randolph said.

"I'm happy for those guys," Valentin said. "They're my
teammates, and they're doing well for the team. So I can't be
selfish.

"Whoever takes that spot for me, hopefully they do better than
I do -- because I want to win. And if we win the championship, we're
all going to get the same prize."