- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Aaron Boone’s first priority is the long-term health of his heart. Later on, he’ll decide whether to resume his baseball career.

The Houston Astros infielder announced Wednesday that he’ll have open heart surgery to replace an aortic valve. He said he’s known about his heart condition since college but tests after his routine physical determined he required surgery. It’s not an emergency, but doctors indicated the procedure was needed.

A playoff hero with the New York Yankees in 2003, the 36-year-old Boone said doctors told him he could play baseball when he recovers, but he’s not sure whether he will.

“We’ll see where I am a month from now, two months from now, three months from now,” he said.

An emotional Boone delivered the news in Kissimmee, Fla., flanked by general manager Ed Wade and manager Cecil Cooper in front of a somber room filled with teammates and Astros officials.

“It definitely hits home, but I’m doing well with it,” Boone said. “I feel like I’m fairly educated on it now. I have a strong faith and a great family and friends and teammates. I really am doing well and I’m ready to tackle this thing and get it behind me and get on with life.”

Wade said a local doctor who did the team physicals and club physician Dr. Jim Muntz worked together to conduct tests on Boone because they knew of his condition.

“Unfortunately, the test results came out indicating there was an acceleration of the condition that Aaron has been dealing with for a number of years,” Wade said.

Boone has a bicuspid aortic valve, a congenital defect where the valve has only two cusps to manage the flow of blood through the heart, as opposed to the normal three. The surgery has not been scheduled, but Boone expects to set a date for the procedure later this week.

Cooper rubbed Boone’s back as he expressed his concern for the player.

“As a baseball family we’re here to support Aaron, as you can see by all the teammates and front office personnel we have here,” Cooper said. “And anything he needs we’re going to be there to help him out.”

Boone said he feels fine, but he’s never had symptoms of the problem. He’ll make decisions about his future after he recovers and can research and talk with athletes who have returned to play after heart surgery. He mentioned getting in touch with Ronny Turiaf, who had a similar procedure and currently plays in the NBA for the Golden State Warriors.

Boone, who signed with the Astros in the offseason after spending last year with Washington, is a member of one of baseball’s most familiar families. His brother Bret, father Bob and grandfather Ray were all major league All-Stars.

Aaron Boone made the NL All-Star team in 2003 with Cincinnati, then was traded to New York later that summer. That’s where he took his place in baseball lore, with an 11th-inning homer against Boston to win Game 7 of the 2003 AL championship series for the Yankees.

In other news:

_Kevin Youkilis will miss the rest of the World Baseball Classic because of a sprained ankle, the latest in a wave of injuries that has plagued the United States squad. His absence left the Americans without many options at first as they prepare for the semifinals in Los Angeles this weekend.

Youkilis had an MRI at Boston Red Sox camp in Fort Myers, Fla., and he was diagnosed with a mild left ankle sprain and mild Achilles’ tendinitis in his left foot. He’ll wear a walking boot for several days but is not expected to miss significant playing time, the Red Sox said.

_Tom Gorzelanny, one of Pittsburgh’s top two starters at the beginning of last season, was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis in a surprising move.

_The Nationals added reliever Joe Beimel and released oft-injured starter Shawn Hill, who beat the team in salary arbitration. Beimel, a left-hander who turns 32 next month, got a $2 million, one-year contract and will become the primary setup man for closer Joel Hanrahan.

_Hideki Matsui, recovering from left knee surgery, won’t play the outfield for the Yankees until at least interleague road games in June. He’ll be restricted to designated hitter and pinch-hitting appearances until then.

_Boston released Josh Bard, 2 1/2 months after signing the backup catcher.

_Left-handed reliever Jimmy Gobble was placed on release waivers by Kansas City.

_All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez was scratched from Florida’s lineup for a second straight game because of discomfort in his right shoulder.

_Randy Johnson is scheduled to start for San Francisco against Seattle on Monday after skipping a turn because of soreness in his biceps.

_Cleveland reliever Adam Miller is facing career-threatening finger surgery if he’s unable to find a new way to pitch effectively.

Giants 8, Cubs 6

At Mesa, Ariz., NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum gave up four runs and seven hits, including a first-pitch homer to Alfonso Soriano, in 3 2-3 innings.

Rangers 9, Padres 4

At Peoria, Ariz., Josh Hamilton went 3-for-3 including a bunt single with a runner on base during a four-run first inning. Hamilton is hitting .439 with 15 RBIs in 14 spring training games. Brandon McCarthy threw four hitless innings to keep the Padres winless against AL teams this spring (0-8-2).

Angels 4, White Sox 1

At Phoenix, Dustin Moseley shut down Chicago, allowing four hits and striking out four in five innings.

Braves 7, Mets 4

At Port St. Lucie, Fla., Livan Hernandez strengthened his grip on the No. 5 spot in the New York Mets’ rotation with five strong innings. He scattered five hits and allowed one run, striking out three.

Blue Jays 7, Phillies 7

At Clearwater, Fla., Jayson Werth hit a 400-foot, three-run homer off Toronto’s Scott Richmond.

Brewers 4, Diamondbacks 1

At Tucson, Ariz., Yovani Gallardo held Arizona hitless through five innings. Gallardo, who missed virtually all of last season with knee injuries, struck out three and walked three.

Arizona’s Doug Davis cruised in his return to the mound after missing a start with tightness in his biceps. He held the Brewers without a hit in 2 1-3 scoreless innings.

Pirates 4, Twins 3, 10 innings

At Bradenton, Fla., Francisco Liriano walked four in four innings and allowed two runs, one earned. Matt Tolbert and Delmon Young homered off Pirates starter Zach Duke.

Rays 7, Reds 3

At Port Charlotte, Fla., Jason Hammel, competing with Jeff Niemann and David Price for the No. 5 spot in Tampa Bay’s rotation, allowed three runs and five hits, including Edwin Encarnacion’s homer, in four innings.

Cardinals 3, Orioles 2

At Jupiter, Fla., Chris Carpenter, who missed most of the past two seasons with arm and shoulder trouble, pitched six scoreless innings and has not given up a run in 14 innings this spring.

Yankees 4, Astros 1

At Kissimmee, Fla., Mike Hampton pitched five scoreless innings and hasn’t allowed a run in nine innings over his past two starts. He has a 3.38 ERA this spring. Chien-Mien Wang gave up three hits and one run in five innings for New York.

Marlins 7, Nationals 5

At Viera, Fla., Josh Johnson struck out seven in five strong innings and scored twice for Florida. Emilio Bonifacio went 4-for-5 with two triples and four RBIs.

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