Tuesday, July 31, 2007

PEDRO! to start in a game on Wednesday

For the St. Lucie Mets. We'll try to provide inning by inning recaps during the 3 innings that he is scheduled to go.

Pedro to Pitch Wednesday

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Pedro Martinez is finally ready to pitch in an organized game. The Mets right-hander worked out for about an hour at the club's Minor League complex on Monday, which included about 10 minutes of pitching off flat ground, and then pronounced himself ready to pitch for Class A Advanced St. Lucie on Wednesday night.

He will be rationed to 45 pitches and hopes to complete three innings.

"I have no idea how I'm going to be, but I just know I feel better than I did the last two years," Martinez said. "I've been throwing and every time I throw, I bounce back quick and good. So that's good enough. It doesn't matter if I'm the old Pedro, I just want to be healthy and know I'm healthy."

The celebrated right-hander had surgery for a torn rotator cuff on Oct. 5. A three-time Cy Young Award winner, Martinez is a career 206-92 with a 2.81 ERA. He is just two strikeouts shy of 3,000.

Martinez joined the Mets before the 2005 season and is 24-16 with a 3.45 ERA.

He said he isn't "looking to do anything exciting to try to impress anybody" Wednesday night. "I just want to come out of it healthy, execute my pitches and my program, regardless of the results."

Martinez, whose weight used to vary between 182 and 188 pounds, said he has built himself up to 192 pounds and has been sustaining that weight for about six months.

"I feel I'm as strong as I've ever been," he said.

He has been steadily working his way up to game action. He embarked on a strict, exhaustive workout schedule barely a week and a half after his surgery and said it's something he'd never put himself through again.

He threw to batters for the first time on June 26, then on July 3 did his first throwing off a mound. From there, he took a planned break, visiting his family in the Dominican Republic.

Sixteen days later, he threw a bullpen session, then on July 23, he pitched to hitters again.

If all goes well on Wednesday night, Martinez plans to extend his pitch count in his next outing, which he said could likely be with St. Lucie since he dislikes traveling around.

He said the wonderful part about this comeback attempt is that there is no pressure on him. He said at 35 he has had a career worthy of Hall of Fame consideration even if he never pitches in another game.

"I'm sure a lot of you would think about it [voting him into the Hall] even if you don't believe it," he told reporters.

When last seen in a game, Martinez started against Atlanta on Sept. 27 and gave up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings. Several days later, he was diagnosed with the rotator cuff tear.

He said being so competitive got him in trouble injury-wise, so now he plans to mix in plenty of intelligence with the competitiveness. He said knowing when to go all out will be the real test.

"Whatever happens, I'm not afraid," he said. "I'm actually laying in God's hands and actually going for it, whatever is out there."

He said when he was traded from the Dodgers to the then-Montreal Expos in 1994, cynics said he was too small, too fragile.

"Now," he said Monday, "you guys are asking me if I can do it one more time. I think I've proven myself."

He said his Mets teammates have been great with their encouragement of him, mentioning Paul Lo Duca, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and Billy Wagner.

"Everybody on the team has told me pretty much the same thing: make sure you're healthy," he said.

He said not being with his teammates this season "through the dark days" has been difficult for him. He said he's watched the games and had countless phone conversations with teammates, but it's not like being there.

He added, however, that he's had his share of "dark days" working in virtual anonymity and in the same, physically challenging environment for many months now. He mentioned all the days spent rehabbing and working harder than he's ever worked.

"But hopefully, there will be a reward," he said. "That reward would be to be everything my teammates hope that I will be."

Now that he will be pitching in a game Wednesday, he expects to get a better idea soon on just how much celebrating there will be.

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