Pedro ready for bigs after rehab start

Pedro ready for bigs after rehab start

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Perhaps the Mets' biggest chance of turning around what has so far been a difficult season was pitching in a Minor League ballpark about 1,200 miles away from Shea Stadium on Wednesday.

Three-time Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez made his first official start since straining his left hamstring on April 1 for the St. Lucie Mets and had a solid outing, pitching six full innings and allowing two runs on four hits while striking out six.

Most importantly, he came out of it healthy and feeling good.

"Perfect," Martinez said when asked how he felt on the mound. "What I wanted to do was come out healthy, pitch more or less five or six innings, and for my leg not to bother me.

"Thank God I accomplished all of that."

The prognosis for Martinez was that he would be ready to start in the big leagues on Tuesday when the Mets face the Giants. After throwing 82 pitches -- 63 for strikes -- against the Vero Beach Devil Rays, rehabilitation pitching coordinator Randy Niemann said that shouldn't be a problem.

"Yeah [he's ready to pitch on Tuesday]," Niemann said. "If he can throw 95 to 100 [pitches on Tuesday], that would be perfect. I thought he did a good job. I thought he really used his fastball tonight, showed that the arm strength is there. I thought as the game went on, his rhythm got a little better. He started putting his fastball in better spots."

The 36-year-old mostly threw fastballs to the Advanced-A ball hitters and said he was just trying to get some work in. The opposing hitters did their only damage on Martinez in the fourth inning, when he gave up singles to four of the six batters he faced.

Up until that point, Martinez had retired nine of the first 10 hitters he faced -- the only one to get on base reached on an error -- and threw just 32 pitches through the first three innings. In the fourth, however, Martinez faced seven hitters and threw 26 pitches.

"I threw a lot of fastballs -- ninety percent fastballs," said Martinez, who estimated he threw only about six cutters. "Those kids just swing and swing and swing. They don't let you work a pattern. You just go out there, do whatever you can and try to get out of it healthy."

Martinez was mostly between 87 and 89 mph with his fastball, and 71 to 75 mph with his off-speed pitches. The 17-year veteran cranked it up his highest in the fourth inning, when he reached 90 and even 91 mph on four separate occasions. To Martinez, that velocity is just fine.

"I just came off a hamstring problem," said Martinez, who made only five starts in 2007 because of a torn rotator cuff and has only started seven games since Sept. 26, 2006. "Before, when I was hurt, throwing 90 was like a miracle for everybody. Now, it's 90s and [I'm] not even completely recovered. If I can stay around there, I'll be more than happy.

"Plus, I don't need that to pitch. I'm wise. I don't need velocity."

Martinez, who signed a four-year, $53 million contract with the Mets in 2005, made three starts with the St. Lucie Mets last season, going 1-1 with a 3.21 ERA. During his first start of the season, he threw 3 1/3 innings while giving up four runs on four hits to the Marlins. After that, Martinez said he felt a "pop" in his leg and came out of the game.

Martinez planned to test his left leg on May 22, but delayed the start to fly to the Dominican Republic and be with his ailing father.

"It's been a very difficult year," Martinez said.

It's been a difficult year for the Mets, too. Martinez's reemergence comes at a desperate time for New York, which sports the third-highest team payroll in the Major Leagues at over $138 million, but sit at 25-26 and 4 1/2 games out of first place in the National League East after Wednesday's win over the Marlins.

"It is hard for me to see what's going on and not be able to help," Martinez said. "It's an uncomfortable feeling. Really uncomfortable."

Coming into Wednesday, Mets starting pitchers sported a 4.26 ERA, which was 12th in the Major Leagues. Martinez can definitely help that cause, but his easygoing personality can also lighten the mood in the clubhouse.

"I'm going to make some noise a little bit when I get there," Martinez said. "They're going to notice I'm there."

Alden Gonzalez is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.