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Pedro makes anticipated debut Sunday

Pedro makes anticipated debut Sunday

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- No more false starts. Pedro Martinez is finally set to make his Spring Training debut, and this time, it's for real.

After numerous delays worked in concert to stall his Grapefruit League season, Martinez will face the Tigers on Sunday in a 1:10 p.m. ET game at Tradition Field.

The Mets allowed one turn in the rotation to pass before Martinez was even scheduled for his first start earlier this month. When heavy rains in Viera, Fla., postponed that game, Martinez instead pitch a simulated game the next day.

Four days later, Martinez would have pitched, if not for his aversion to long bus rides. The Mets were slated to travel across the state to Fort Myers, Fla., for a game against the Red Sox, so Martinez instead stayed behind to pitch another simulated game.

Now, he'll face a real opponent for the first time this spring. The weather report is fine -- sunny all day -- and the Mets are predictably excited.

"It's always good to see him and watch him pitch," fellow Mets starter Johan Santana said. "He's a great pitcher, a great guy and a great friend. Definitely, I'm looking forward to spending all this time together and to watching him pitch."

The game will mark Martinez's first Grapefruit League start since 2006. He missed most of last season -- Spring Training included -- while recovering from right rotator cuff surgery, eventually returning to post three wins and a 2.57 ERA down the stretch.

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Because of the delays, Martinez won't be able to approach the five innings and 80 pitches that have become benchmarks for other Mets starters by this point of spring. But that doesn't mean he can't impress.

"With Pedro, we'll just see how he grinds and how he goes," Mets manager Willie Randolph said, noting that he expects three or four innings out of Martinez. "He might start breezing and feel pretty good. He's in great physical condition. He looks good, so we'll just get him out there and get the wraps off, and I look forward to seeing him pitch."

Randolph said he wasn't worried about Martinez's health, and Martinez even joked about the matter earlier this week. Despite storylines billing him and Santana as dual aces for the Mets, Martinez must first prove that he's healthy enough to complete his first full season since 2005.

"I've been bombarded with questions about Johan, when I'm going to pitch and my velocity," Martinez said after his last simulated game. "But no one asks about my health. And that's the most important thing."

Anthony DiComo 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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