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01/07/11 4:23 PM EST

Keppinger to undergo surgery on left foot

Infielder suffering from inflammation, likely to miss start of season

HOUSTON -- Jeff Keppinger, who started at second base for the Astros for most of last season, led the team in doubles and was second in batting average, is headed for foot surgery on Jan. 14 and will likely miss the start of the regular season.

Keppinger spent two weeks on the disabled list late last year with left big toe sesamoiditis, which is an inflammation of two small bones near the ball of the foot. He spent six weeks in a walking boot and told general manager Ed Wade on Wednesday he was beginning to experience discomfort trying to accelerate while walking and jogging.

The surgery will be performed in Charlotte, N.C., by Dr. Robert Anderson, during which he will remove a sesamoid bone in Keppinger's foot. The procedure is usually 100 percent successful, but the recovery time will take anywhere from three to four months, Wade said.

"I'd love to have gotten better news as we progressed," he said. "We're in the early stages of getting this whole thing set up. Generally speaking, from the information we were provided before the holidays, if surgery was necessary it would probably take three to four months to recover."

Keppinger had a career season last year, hitting .288 with six homers and 59 RBIs in a career-high 514 at-bats. He began the year as a utility player before wrestling the starting second base job away from Kaz Matsui early in the season and was the team's most consistent hitter.

That being said, the Astros signed Bill Hall to start at second base and traded for Clint Barmes to play shortstop in an effort to increase run production, meaning Keppinger was going to be sent back into a utility role. The Astros explored trying to trade him, but his health issues complicated any possible deals. Keppinger is eligible for arbitration for the second time in his career after making $1.15 million last year.

"I would think if Jeff was healthy and obviously precluding a potential trade along the way, I thought he would have gotten the chance to get a lot of playing time," Wade said. "He can play all around the infield. He would be able to spell [Chris] Johnson at third and Barmes and Hall in the middle and can even play first base for us. It's disappointing having to deal with this for this long, and hopefully we get it addressed as quickly as possible and he returns as quickly as possible."

Wade said Keppinger was disappointed.

"I know that he likes it here with us and he felt that he sort of found a home based on the way he's played the last couple of years," Wade said. "He's certainly done everything we asked him to do. I'm sure he was disappointed we went out and added two middle infielders, but the opportunity, if he was still with us, was going to be pretty substantial.

"Again, due to the fact he's had this health setback, the opportunity to put him in a situation with another club and get more playing time has gone past the board until it resolves itself. We're hoping he bounces back quickly and gets healthy and everybody else on the club is healthy."

Despite the possibility of losing the versatile Keppinger to begin the regular season, Wade said the club feels good about its infield depth and won't try to add from outside the organization. Angel Sanchez can play second base or shortstop, and Tommy Manzella, Matt Downs, Anderson Hernandez and Oswaldo Navarro will be competing for jobs in Spring Training.

"We've got some depth there we can utilize, so our approach at this point is we will probably let it play out during Spring Training," Wade said. "If the need exists at the end of Spring Training, we'll go out and try to adjust at that point in time."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.