Inside Pitch: Pedro, Mets eye season's start
New York Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez pitches for the first time this year during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Sunday, March 26, 2006, in Port St.
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Posted Mar 28, 2006


Pedro Martinez looked sharp in his first appearance of the spring, giving up one hit in three scoreless innings Sunday against Baltimore.

Martinez has been brought along slowly because of a sore right big toe, which he's afraid could alter his mechanics.

"It was a big load off my shoulders," Martinez said. "It was good to finally get it out of the way."

Martinez said he felt his toe several times, but not enough to where it bothered him.

"I would pitch like this all year," Martinez said. "If this is all I am going to feel, you can forget about it."

The next step for Martinez, barring a setback, would be to pitch four innings Friday against St. Louis.

Martinez is penciled in for the third game of the season, April 6 against Washington.

SEASON PREVIEW: With Opening Day rapidly approaching, the Mets have had re-affirmed what they have known all along: Their questionable pitching is what will carry them this summer.

In Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, David Wright, Cliff Floyd and Xavier Nady, the Mets have the potential of five 25-homer bats in the heart of their order.

They'll score a lot of runs, but there's also the potential of giving a lot back because there are questions, one through five, in the rotation: Pedro Martinez anticipates pitching with soreness in his big right toe all season; 40-year-old Tom Glavine was a .500 pitcher last year; Steve Trachsel is coming off back surgery; Victor Zambrano is a career .500-caliber pitcher; and whoever the fifth starter will be, Brian Bannister or Aaron Heilman, he will be relatively inexperienced.

Bannister could get the job because the Mets are worried about their bullpen, which will be without Juan Padilla for the season and doesn't have a legitimate left-handed setup arm. Heilman was effective out of the 'pen last year, especially against lefties, and the Mets could try it again.

Billy Wagner saved 38 games last year for Philadelphia, while the Mets' pen collectively blew 21 opportunities. Duaner Sanchez is penciled in for the eighth inning and Jorge Julio the seventh, but the Mets are wary of the latter. Heilman would deepen the 'pen because it would enable manager Willie Randolph to possibly drop down Sanchez to the seventh.

The Mets entered the offseason with four priorities and addressed them all, adding the closer Wagner, power-hitting first baseman Delgado, catcher Paul Lo Duca, and role players Julio Franco and Jose Valentin.

The Mets also dealt unhappy Mike Cameron for Nady, who'll start in right and send Victor Diaz to the bench.

General manager Omar Minaya spent much of his offseason alternatively trying to deal second baseman Kaz Matsui and saying he was happy with him in the infield. However, Matsui's knee injury will force him to the disabled list to start the season, and rookie Anderson Hernandez will play instead.

As of now, the Mets are hoping their offense -- which they hope will include a more relaxed Beltran in his second season in New York -- will produce enough to overcome their pitching deficiencies and other questions.

It is a formula a lot of teams have tried -- most of them unsuccessfully.

PRIMED FOR A BIG SEASON: 3B David Wright is on the verge of going from star to superstar, with Scott Rolen-type potential at the position. Wright hit .306 with 27 homers and 102 RBI last year, and with a year of experience and protection from 1B Carlos Delgado, there's no telling what he could bring to the table.

ON THE DECLINE: LHP Tom Glavine is entering his walk year at 40 and coming off a 13-13 season. With RHP Pedro Martinez's health an issue and other questions throughout the rotation, there's more pressure for Glavine to be Glavine and pitch the way he did in the second half of last season, when he won five games.

NOTES, QUOTES

  • LHP Billy Wagner long-tossed for the second straight day and is expected to play catch again Monday. Wagner hasn't pitched since Tuesday due to stiffness in the tendon of his left middle finger. "I'm going to get in a game," said Wagner, who isn't as sure about working in consecutive games. "There are a lot of spring trainings when I haven't gone back-to-back, so I'm not worried."

  • LF Cliff Floyd missed his fourth straight game with the flu, but he expects to play Monday.

  • Presuming RHP Brian Bannister is in the rotation and RHP Aaron Heilman will work in relief, the Mets have five givens in the bullpen: Wagner, Heilman and RHPs Duaner Sanchez, Jorge Julio and Chad Bradford. Manager Willie Randolph is uncertain whether he will keep 11 or 12 pitchers.

  • INF Julio Franco had some minor tightness in his lower back sustained after doing leg presses Saturday, but he was able to play.

  • 2B Kaz Matsui, out three weeks with a knee injury, did some light jogging and hopes to start doing baseball-related exercises by the end of the week.

  • RHP Pedro Martinez gave up one hit and a walk with one strikeout in three scoreless innings Sunday in his first exhibition appearance of the spring. Martinez, rehabbing a sore big right toe, is expected to pitch Friday against St. Louis.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 1,406 -- Career stolen bases for Rickey Henderson, a guest instructor in camp to work with SS Jose Reyes.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "My body will tell me when I am ready." -- RHP Pedro Martinez's response to questions about how far he expects to go when he returns to the mound.

    ROSTER REPORT

    We all know the Mets will score a lot of runs this year. We also know they figure to give up a lot. As it is with every team, every year, the Mets will go as far as their pitching takes them. And they head into the season with more questions than answers on the mound.

    ROTATION:
    1. LHP Tom Glavine
    2. RHP Pedro Martinez
    3. RHP Steve Trachsel
    4. RHP Victor Zambrano
    5. RHP Brian Bannister or RHP Aaron Heilman

    The first three in their prime would probably be enough to compensate for the inexperience and inconsistency of the back end.

    However, Glavine is 40 and coming off a .500 year, Martinez has a bad toe he says will bother him all year, and Trachsel is coming off back surgery. Zambrano is so-so, and Bannister appears to have the inside track on the fifth starter role because deficiencies in the bullpen dictate a need for Heilman in that role.

    BULLPEN:
    LHP Billy Wagner (closer)
    RHP Duaner Sanchez
    RHP Aaron Heilman
    RHP Jorge Julio
    RHP Chad Bradford
    RHP Yusaku Iriki
    LHP Royce Ring

    Wagner saved 38 games last year for Philadelphia, the same number the Mets bullpen collectively saved. A more telling number, however, were the 21 blown saves. That's where the bridge comes in.

    Sanchez has been penciled in for the eighth inning and Julio the seventh, but the Mets don't know what to expect from the latter.

    Also, with Juan Padilla lost for the season and without a dominating situational lefty, Heilman can be moved back into the setup role he capably filled last year, which would push everybody down.

    LINEUP:
    1. SS Jose Reyes
    2. CF Carlos Beltran
    3. 1B Carlos Delgado
    4. 3B David Wright
    5. LF Cliff Floyd
    6. RF Xavier Nady
    7. C Paul Lo Duca
    8. 2B Anderson Hernandez

    Manager Willie Randolph refuses to say such things as bunching his speed at the top of the order -- Reyes and Beltran -- and separating lefty sluggers Delgado and Cliff Floyd are important, but that's only spring talk.

    Although there has been speculation Lo Duca would hit second, Beltran is the team's best natural number two hitter in that he combines power and speed, plus he can bunt and move runners over.

    Wright is poised for a monster year between Delgado and Floyd, and if everything goes according to plan, Nady and Lo Duca should have a lot of RBI opportunities before the bottom of the order hits.

    RESERVES:
    C Ramon Castro
    INF Julio Franco
    INF Jose Valentin
    OF Victor Diaz
    OF Endy Chavez

    This could be the Mets' deepest bench in years, with the additions of Franco and Valentin key for the late innings. Diaz has power potential and Chavez speed.

    ROOKIE WATCH: 2B Anderson Hernandez figures to make the team because of Kaz Matsui's knee injury. As long as he makes the plays the Mets will be happy because they have enough offense to carry him. RHP Brian Bannister was ticketed for the minor leagues, but he's been outstanding this spring and weaknesses in the bullpen have created a need for him to be in the rotation and RHP Aaron Heilman to work in relief.

    MEDICAL WATCH: RHP Pedro Martinez's sore right big toe is the key to the season. If he's ineffective, the Mets can kick their season good-bye. RHP Juan Padilla is lost for the year with elbow surgery and 2B Kaz Matsui will open the season on the disabled list with a knee injury. LH closer Billy Wagner was held out five days with stiffness in the middle finger of his pitching hand. 1B Carlos Delgado has been bothered by tendinitis in his left elbow but said he has more range of motion.


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