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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Byline: Adam Rubin

LOS ANGELES _ Mike Cameron was to undergo surgery Friday night to repair fractured facial bones and may be sidelined for the season, but the right fielder was in good spirits a day after his jarring head-to-head collision with Carlos Beltran. The two-time Gold Glove winner even told his agent: "I had that ball."

Cameron had full motion and clear vision, though he suffered fractures to both cheekbones and his nose, received stitches in both lips and apparently was briefly knocked out after the collision Thursday in San Diego, agent Mike Nicotera said. He will need to remain three days at Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, Calif., where the procedure was to be performed, and cannot travel for a week.

Nicotera estimated the recovery time at four to six weeks. He suggested Cameron may not be able to do any strenuous activity during the recovery period - potentially leaving little, if any, time to get into baseball shape with the season finale Oct. 2.

One person familiar with the situation said Cameron's return this season would be based on whether the Mets were in serious postseason contention. He would need to wear a mask if he returned. Still, Cameron already was predicting a quick comeback, telling Nicotera: "I think it could be like three weeks."

"I wasn't going to correct him," the agent said. "That's where his head is at."

"I know he's looking forward to getting his face right, because he's a pretty boy," quipped close friend Cliff Floyd, who was more at ease after speaking with Cameron on Thursday night. ". . . He's in California. You know they have the best plastic surgeons here."

Beltran, who was hospitalized overnight after the incident, also took a jolt in the collision and couldn't recall speaking with his wife Jessica, despite their 15-minute phone conversation after the incident. Deputy GM Jim Duquette said Beltran wouldn't play this weekend, though he was expected to rejoin the team. He suffered a concussion and slightly displaced fracture of bones in his left cheek, though he's not expected to need surgery. Duquette said the Mets may explore a trade to add an outfielder if Beltran ultimately needs to be placed on the DL because of the concussion, but "there's not an awful lot available."

Willie Randolph said he didn't believe Beltran's left shoulder, which also received a jolt, would be an issue.

Nicotera was driving home from work and heard the call of the collision on the radio. He phoned Duquette, who was at the stadium. "It sounded like I was talking to someone who had seen a ghost," the agent said.

By that night, Cameron was speaking in his hospital room. He told Nicotera he tried to get up after the collision, but medical staff on the field wouldn't let him.

"The thing that scared him a little bit is he had a lot of blood in his mouth and nose, so it was difficult to breathe," Nicotera said.

Given what could have happened, the agent said, everyone feels fortunate.

"At the time I spoke to him he was probably less disturbed than I was," Nicotera said. "He was certainly, given the circumstances, in very good spirits. He was like, `Nic, I had that ball.' He said it out of the blue. I said, `I'm sure you did. I'm glad you're all right.' He was hard to understand. He has stitches in both of his lips. His nose is broken. He's got fractures in the cheekbones. I said, `This may put a crimp in your modeling career, but you're going to be all right.'

"Mike's CT scan was negative. There have been no issues with his vision. He had all feeling in his limbs. There should be a sense of relief today."

___

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