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Sunday, September 19, 2010
Jason LaRue retiring from baseball

ESPN.com news services

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Jason LaRue is still experiencing debilitating symptoms from a concussion sustained during the Cardinals' brawl with the Cincinnati Reds in August and is retiring from baseball.

LaRue said after conferring with doctors, retirement was "a simple decision," according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

LaRue As a catcher you're so vulnerable to getting another [concussion]. All it takes is a foul ball to the head. Even as a backup that happened [3 to 5] times last year. It's not a question of if it would happen again, it's when.

-- Cardinals catcher Jason LaRue

"If I was in a different situation, it wouldn't be anything like this," LaRue said, according to the report. "But as a catcher you're so vulnerable to getting another [concussion]. All it takes is a foul ball to the head. Even as a backup that happened [three to five] times last year. It's not a question of if it would happen again, it's when."

LaRue, who estimates he has had "close to 20" concussions in his athletic career extending back to high school football, was kicked in the face by Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto during the Aug. 10 brawl at Cincinnati. Cueto, who was pinned against the backstop during the brawl, lashed out with his feet, kicking LaRue and Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter.

General manager John Mozeliak says LaRue has not made a formal decision.

Manager Tony La Russa said Sunday that he last spoke with LaRue a few days ago and he had been improving.

"He was starting to feel better, but it didn't look like he was coming back," La Russa said. "I think he's being smart taking care of himself, and I think his family's happy about that."

While a follow-up exam showed significant bruising, LaRue thought he would be fine. But in the following weeks he experienced painful headaches and nausea, according to the report. He was unable to drive or ride in a car, cook for himself or watch television. His doctors, concerned that he was in no condition to care for himself, sent him home from St. Louis to his family in Texas.

"Riding in a car going to the doctors I'd have to close my eyes," LaRue said, according to the report. "It's one of the hardest things in the world to explain. You don't feel right. It's been a little more than a month since it happened and I'm finally starting to feel more normal."

LaRue will rejoin the Cardinals in Pittsburgh on Monday, according to the report, allowing him to share a final road trip with the team and visit a concussion specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

LaRue, who has three children with his wife, Heather, said he is not planning to take legal action against Cueto, according to the report.

"I was going to retire on my own terms," LaRue said, according to the report. "It's unfortunate that the blow that decided it came from someone kicking me in the head with spikes. I wouldn't say I would change things if you could rewrite history. They say things happen for certain reasons. In this case, I couldn't tell you why. Does it suck that my career is over because Johnny Cueto started kicking me in the head? Yes, it sucks.

"I expected to walk away when I felt it was right. The bottom line: It's unfortunate."

LaRue's best year offensively was in 2005 when he batted .260 with 14 homers and 60 RBIs for Cincinnati. He hit .196 with two homers and five RBIs in 56 at-bats this season.

"He's in a great position as long as he takes real good care of his head," La Russa said. "He's had a very solid major league career, a lot of highlights, and I know one of them is he hit a homer last year that put our magic number at zero.

"He's got a great life ahead of him."

The Cardinals have a pair of young prospects at catcher behind the 28-year-old Molina, who has won a Gold Glove the past two years. Matt Pagnozzi caught Adam Wainwright's 19th victory on Sunday and Bryan Anderson batted .273 in 22 at-bats during a short stint earlier in the year.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this story.