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Hampton shuts down for season

Oft-injured Astros pitcher says he's facing three operations

By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com

Saturday, August 29, 2009 6:36 PM CT

Mike Hampton PHOENIX -- The on-and-off-again career of pitcher Mike Hampton is off again. The Astros left-hander said on Saturday that he's done for the season and will have surgeries on his left shoulder and both knees in an attempt to come back again next year.

"When I finally walk away I don't want there ever to be 'what ifs?' " Hampton said hours before the Astros played the second game of their three-game set against the D-backs at Chase Field. "I think I can still play. I want to give it everything I've got. When I quit I want to know that I did that."

Hampton, who will turn 37 on Sept. 9, has a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder and needs meniscus clean up in arthritic knees. He won't have all the procedures done at once.

"If I did I'd be in a wheelchair," he said.

Instead he probably will opt to do the shoulder and one knee first and then have the other knee repaired as he's rehabbing the shoulder. When all is said and done, that'll make it nine surgical procedures in his 15-year career. He'll be able to file for free agency at the end of the World Series after his one-year, $2 million base contract with the Astros expires.

Hampton was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sore shoulder on Aug. 18 and, even after he learned about the rotator tear, tried to rehab the injury with the intent of coming back this season. But when Hampton went out to throw soft toss before Friday night's 14-7 Houston loss to the D-backs, he felt enough pain that he told the club he was shutting down.

Hampton said he probably would have the surgery performed in New York by David Altchek, a highly regarded orthopedic surgeon for the Mets, who has already done two of Hampton's elbow surgeries and a knee surgery. Hampton played for the Mets in 2000, the year they went to the World Series and lost to the Yankees in five games.

Hampton notified the Astros about his plans on Saturday, general manager Ed Wade said.

"He has continued discomfort in his shoulder and he told us today that he's not going to be able to continue to play this year," Wade said. "His plan at this point is to get the MRIs of his knees and shoulder together and send them to Dr. Altchek to try and figure out what procedures he's going to undergo to allow him to continue to play next year.

"Obviously this is not what we wanted to hear. He meant a lot to our rotation earlier in the season and it's disappointing he wasn't able to make it the finish line because he could have helped us."

Hampton was 7-10 with a 5.30 ERA this season in 21 starts, the most he's made in a single season since he threw 29 for the Braves in 2004. In 2001, he signed an eight-year, $121 million contract with the Rockies, who traded him to Atlanta through Florida after the 2002 season. Because of the myriad injuries, Hampton has only won 63 games since signing what was then the richest deal in Major League history.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.