Pelfrey knows demotion could be near
Imminent return of Martinez could have righty heading to Minors
NEW YORK -- How Pedro Martinez fared in his rehab start in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Wednesday was of particular interest to Mike Pelfrey. Martinez's condition, not his performance in a Class A game, will be a factor in whether Pelfrey maintains his big league status next week.
The row of dominoes begins with Martinez, who threw 82 pitches -- 63 for strikes -- in six innings, with six strikeouts. If, as the Mets hope, he is available to return to the rotation after his rehab start, he will pitch on Tuesday night in San Francisco. If the rotation is to turn as it has, the starting assignment will be Claudio Vargas'. And, as a matter of fact, Vargas will be bumped to accommodate Martinez, though he won't necessarily be removed from the roster.
The club could demote Carlos Muniz and have Vargas fill the role of long reliever left unfilled since the removal of Jorge Sosa. Or the Mets could keep Vargas in the rotation, changing the sequence, leave Muniz in to fill the role that had been filled by the now-disabled Matt Wise and demote Pelfrey.
A person familiar with the thinking of general manager Omar Minaya said on Tuesday that a scenario in which Pelfrey is demoted has been discussed. Moreover, Pelfrey himself thinks that demotion could be in his immediate future if he doesn't reverse the direction of his season. He is to start against the Dodgers on Saturday, two days after Vargas makes his fourth start, also against the Dodgers.
"I've thought about it. It has to be something they're considering, the way I'm going," Pelfrey said on Tuesday.
Pelfrey has a 2-6 record and 5.33 ERA in nine starts, but those victories came in his first two starts. He has lost six straight decisions, and the Mets have lost his last seven starts.
"I know I pitched well enough to win two of those games," he said. "I had a no-hitter going in one. But I've been disappointed with the others. I haven't pitched well. I know that. That's why I hate the game right now. It's miserable. I'm miserable.
"I haven't been able to command my pitches. When I do, I win. But it just isn't there."
Lack of command is what prompted Pelfrey to abandon his two-seam fastball, generally regarded as his best pitch. He threw one in his most recent start, against the Marlins on Monday. He threw 94 other pitches in merely four innings, 52 for strikes.
"When I get into the 60s with my strikes, I'm better off. I did that when I won," he said.
Now he is throwing a four-seam fastball, a changeup and a slider. But his command isn't particularly good with any one of the three.
"If I have command, I can win with just my fastball," he said. "I've got to get it. I feel like it's coming. One day it's just going to be there. That's what happened in college. I was having a lot of trouble. Then, boom, it was there."
Now the chance exists that the boom might happen in the Minor Leagues.
"I'd like to pitch well and avoid that," he said. "But I'd like to pitch well to help us win. I haven't done that. But I've been sent down before, and I know I can get back.
"I know I can be a winning pitcher, that's what irritates me. If I thought I wasn't any good, I could accept it a little easier. But I know I can be, and I can help us win."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.