Martinez shelved until next summer

Martinez shelved until next summer

WASHINGTON -- The full impact of the Mets' signing of Pedro Martinez two winters ago has been substantial, though it still can't be measured. The impact of Martinez's latest injury -- a torn rotator cuff to be repaired surgically this week -- can't be measured either. But it already is great, and it may be greater.

With their first postseason appearance in six years less than a week away, the Mets have been left to consider all the ripples caused by an injury that will keep their highest-profile pitcher from active duty until late summer next year. The club learned of the diagnosis on Thursday and announced it Saturday, a day that produced other significant developments, none of which were favorable for the National League East champions and none of which will have impact comparable to that of Martinez's ongoing physical problems.

Left fielder Cliff Floyd didn't return to the lineup on Saturday as he had expected to because the cortisone injected into his left calf Thursday didn't reduce the stiffness and imflammation in and around his Achilles' tendon. First baseman Carlos Delgado asked out of the lineup because of what the club called "general body stiffness." Steve Trachsel, the likely starter for Game 3 of the National League Division Series next Saturday against the either the Padres or Dodgers, left the park Saturday, the day before his scheduled start, to fly home to San Diego for personal reasons.

And at the same time, another tempest in a teapot situation involving rookie Lastings Milledge developed.

But the most significant development -- and the one with the greatest potential to undermine the Mets next season and beyond -- involves Martinez. Less than a month shy of his 35th birthday, he may be in career-threatening jeopardy.

Even if Martinez returns to pitch next summer, his definite absence until then will prompt -- or force -- the club to make personnel moves it might not have planned. Another accomplished starting pitcher is the most obvious need.

"Where do you find another Pedro Martinez?" general manager Omar Minaya said Saturday.

The club is not inclined to re-sign Trachsel, and it has no guarantee Tom Glavine will return.

Of course, Martinez's greatest contributions to the Mets haven't been on the mound. He had started 23 games this season, producing a 9-8 record and a 4.48 ERA, the highest of his career. He won his first five starts in April. Since then, though, the team has lost 12 of his 18 starts. And over two seasons, its record in his 54 starts is 28-26.

His value was greatest when he signed the four-year, $53 million contract in December 2004. He provided credibility and appeal that influenced Carlos Beltran to sign with the Mets and helped the Mets sell tickets. And Beltran's presence eventually helped persuade Carlos Delgado to accept a trade to the Mets at a time when the new cable network, SNY, was about to launch.

Because of his age and diminished performance, Martinez no longer has equal impact. The Mets can use free agency and trades, but free agency can fill only so many holes. And the Mets may have to look to that expensive market to find a left fielder and/or a second baseman.

Trading for a starter seemingly would be difficult. The club doesn't have the depth needed to import a regular or a starter without creating another hole. And Milledge, after a season of modest performance and behavior misdemeanors, has less value than had last year at this time.

Moreover, the Mets still will have to pay Martinez -- at an annual rate of $14 million -- not to pitch for at least the first three months of next season. The injury will affect the budget. He is to earn $11.5 million in 2008 when he will turn 37. How much more will his body have betrayed him by then?

It has betrayed him for more than a year now. But, as he and manager Willie Randolph have repeatedly noted -- until now -- his physical maladies have involved his legs exclusively.

The large toe on his right foot, misshapen and inflamed, delayed and interrupted his Spring Training; inflammation in his right hip caused him to be assigned to the disabled list from June 29 through July 27; a torn muscle in his right calf caused a second DL assignment -- Aug. 15 through Sept. 14; a torn muscle tendon in his left calf, diagnosed Thursday, eliminated him from the Mets' postseason. And now this.

He had given no public indication of trouble with his arm or shoulder. However, after pitching Wednesday night in Atlanta, he told reporters, "I hurt everywhere" and he told the Mets he had experienced sensations that were new and unusual in his arm while pitching.

Martinez's rotator cuff was diagnosed as strained in 2001. And virtually any veteran pitcher in his 30s is bound to have elbow and rotator issues. When Mets announcer and former Mets pitcher Ron Darling learned of Martinez's latest injury, he referred to the surgery as "the 3,000 mile checkup," as if it had been all but planned.

Miles are innings in Darling's analogy, and Martinez has 2,645 2/3 of them in regular season in his career; 132 2/3 this season, his second lowest total since 1993.

The club received word of the injury on Thursday, but withheld public announcement until Saturday to afford Martinez time to decide whether he wanted to undergo surgery or rehab the shoulder. Others had suspected a shoulder problem well before Martinez faced the Braves on Wednesday. Former Pirates manager Chuck Tanner noticed almost immediately that Martinez had dropped his arm slot during the pitcher's Sept. 15 return from the disabled list. Scouts wondered about him after his start against the Marlins six days later.

His conspicuous loss of velocity, they said, most likely was linked to his calf injuries. But his change of arm slot and ankle suggested something else.

General manager Omar Minaya suggested the left calf problem might have been caused by Martinez' s favoring the supposedly-healed right calf. The rotator injury could be linked as well, Minaya acknowledged.

Minaya expects Martinez to return. But who can say how he will respond to surgery and extended time away from pitching? First there is there is the surgery and rehab. He knows the winter is going to be a winter of rehab, the general manager said. "He's looking to the challenge."

Marty Noble is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.