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Simulated game adds up to success

Simulated game adds up to success

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Pedro Martinez pitched in simulated game conditions early Tuesday afternoon. His work can be measured by numbers, and if it is, these are the numbers that mattered: three, three, 59, 43, 87 and four. Three innings, plus three batters, 59 pitches, 43 strikes, 87 mph -- the velocity of his swiftest pitches -- and four days until he pitches again, against the Tigers on Sunday.

And these are the numbers that mattered to him: 59, four and, more important than any of the others, zero -- as in no problems, no pain and no doubts.

Here's another number: 36, Martinez's age. And because he's 36, the zero is significantly more important to him than the 87. Indeed, when his workday and his shower were complete, Martinez was curious about velocity -- not how hard he had thrown but why others have been so curious about it. He said he didn't understand what he considered their obsession.

"I've been bombarded with questions about Johan [Santana], when I'm going to pitch and my velocity," he said. "But no one asks about my health. And that's the most important thing. Tommy [Glavine] was successful. No one asked about his velocity.

"The No. 1 thing is health, then command of all my pitches."

It seemed as though the velocity of his pitches was tied for 31st place -- with the price of hot dogs at Dodgertown -- on his personal list of Spring Training priorities.

"Velocity doesn't matter," he said.

At least not the number.

Martinez couldn't say for certain but he was relatively sure that the pitches that put the behind-the-plate radar gun at 87 mph on Tuesday had traveled with greater speed than any pitch he threw after his return to active duty in September. If sub-87 was enough for him to win then -- in his still compromised state -- 87 and wherever his velocity goes between now and midseason will be more than sufficient to defuse the quickest bats.

"It's not about velocity, it's about changing speeds," Martinez said.

And few pitchers have changed speeds -- and thereby controlled bat speed -- more effectively than Martinez.

"But I'll bet my pitches had more life today than any pitches I threw last year," Martinez noted.

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So understand Martinez was delighted with the results of his third simulated game. Although Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson said he would wait a day, see how Martinez's body responds to its greatest exertion to date and then decide when Martinez will pitch again, the club's Game 2 starter planned on throwing four innings against whatever parts of the American League's best batting order the Tigers bring across the state Sunday.

Martinez made a point of noting he had worn no bag of ice on his shoulder after his 59 pitches. Martinez embraces the idea of natural now -- no PED, no injection ever in his shoulder and no ice now.

Peterson, who didn't make the trip to Fort Myers for the Mets' real game vs. the Red Sox, was delighted by what he had witnessed -- "A small step for Pedro, a giant leap for the Mets," he said -- as were others. Carlos Beltran stood in against his teammate and reaffirmed his original and quite basic assessment of the pitcher he knew in the American League.

"He's difficult to hit," Beltran said. "You can't look for any pitch because he throws so many."

Martinez had worked on his fastball and changeup in the first two innings. He brought out his cutter in the third.

"The way I was [throwing] in the third inning, that's the way I want to pitch," he said. "And I think I can."

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

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