Class act Galarraga calls it a career

With his odds dwindling at making the Major League roster, Andres Galarraga did the classy thing Tuesday – no surprise to anyone who has covered or known him – and bowed out. <P> The 43-year-old Galarraga, twice a survivor of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and owner of 399 big league home runs, called it a career on Tuesday, announcing his retirement in a statement released by the Mets.

"This is a sad day for me, but I honestly felt it was the right time to step away," Galarraga said. "I just wasn't playing up to the expectations that I have set for myself throughout my entire career, and I wanted to walk away on my own terms.

"I owe a lot of gratitude to the Mets organization, especially Omar Minaya, for giving me this chance. Playing has been a part of my life for so long, but I just felt this was the right time to give a younger guy a chance to play. I loved my time here with the Mets, and I just hope in the future to come back to the organization in some capacity."

Galarraga's numbers in his 19th spring training weren't impressive, with the 'Big Cat' batting .235 with three home runs in 17 games, but those statistics are somewhat deceiving. Galarraga had altered his stance and was producing more power with his swings, notching two homers in recent action.

His three spring training home runs, however, won't count in the official ledgers, leaving Galarraga stuck at 399 long balls for his career.

Many within the Mets had hoped that Galarraga would be able to join the club for a few weeks as a right-handed power source off the bench, but a slow-footed infielder proved to be a luxury too rich for the Mets to afford, particularly with speedy outfielder Kerry Robinson piecing together a nice spring.

The move leaves Eric Valent as the likely backup first baseman on the roster.

"Today shows you what kind of a class individual Andres is," said Minaya. "He's always handled things with class and dignity throughout his entire career, and this afternoon is another example of his high character. He is such a wonderful example to the players of today, and I am going to miss him terribly. However, I hope one day he will rejoin our organization again."

Retirements have been no stranger to the Mets this spring. Earlier in the month, veteran pitcher Todd Van Poppel - a member of Galarraga's locker row on the far wall of the clubhouse - left camp and announced that he, too, was walking away from the game.

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