Pedro: Human or superhuman?
Veteran in vintage form while tossing six shutout innings
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Pedro Martinez has now ditched his cape. He might yet save the Mets, sure, but he still won't save the world. Even one of baseball's foremost braggarts has his limits.
"I'm no Superman," Martinez said. "I'm a human being like every other, and whatever I'm asked to do, I'm going to try to do. But I can't predict what I'm going to do. I can't just say that I'm going to pitch eight innings or go up there thinking I'm going to pitch eight perfect innings. It's impossible."
Still, he came close enough on Tuesday afternoon, tossing six shutout innings in a Minor League game behind Tradition Field. Martinez threw 80 pitches in all, walking none and striking out five. Most importantly, he escaped his final regular season tuneup with a clean bill of health -- something that he hasn't enjoyed in quite some time.
"If I'm healthy, I'm going to pitch," Martinez said. "And when I'm going to pitch, things are going to happen. When I'm out there in between the white lines, I'm pretty sure I can do things, and things are going to happen -- good or bad, I don't care what. It's going to happen, and that's my main concern. I'm going to work my butt off."
Pedro Feliciano, Matt Wise and Jorge Sosa also pitched in Tuesday's game, while right-hander Brian Stokes threw four full innings in relief. Such a lengthy outing could have implications on whether or not Stokes might make the Opening Day roster.
For the Mets, however, Tuesday revolved solely around Martinez. Even after Tradition Field's PA announcer began squawking welcomes to all in attendance, quite a few players and coaches remained huddled around the Citi Field Practice Field.
There, Martinez was cruising in much the same fashion as he had for most of the Grapefruit League season -- a schedule he finished with a 2.00 ERA. Now, his spring is over, his health is normal and his confidence is high. So when his first scheduled regular-season outing rolls around in Miami next Tuesday, he'll be prepared to give the Mets what he hopes can be the first of 30-something starts. A novel concept, indeed.
"He looks like he can pitch every fifth day and he'll be ready," infielder Ruben Gotay said, after facing Martinez multiple times in the Minor League game. "Everything was in the zone. Every time he threw a pitch, it was right there."
And so Martinez will be -- or at least should be -- right there all summer. His newfound stability with the team might even allow him to be something of a leader, too -- the kind his teammates noticeably lacked last season. Since he's in the business of saving these Mets, such a role would fit.
"If I see something that I need to say, I'm going to be more vocal about it," Martinez said. "If there is something that I can suggest, and not feel like I'm getting in anybody's way, I think I'm going to be able to say it. Right now, I feel like I'm old enough. I've earned enough respect from my teammates and everybody else that if I say something, they might have to stop and listen."
That doesn't, of course, mean that he's the team's No. 1. Not here, where Johan Santana has become, well, a Superman in his own right. So although Martinez projects to pitch next month's home opener at Shea Stadium, he knows that for once, he won't be the sole focus.
"I'm pretty sure they're interested in seeing Johan, as well," he joked. "But before Johan gets to the mound, they're going to have to settle for the old goat and a very familiar face -- even though I'm pretty sure they're going to enjoy it just as much as I will."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.