Classic could be Pedro's job interview
Pitching for Dominican will showcase free-agent righty Martinez
This spring's World Baseball Classic is expected to be a display of the Dominican Republic's baseball might, from the slugging talents of Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez to the all-around athleticism of Vladimir Guerrero, Alfonso Soriano and Hanley Ramirez. For Pedro Martinez, it's also apparently going to be a job audition.
The New York Post quotes Martinez's agent, Fernando Cuza, as saying that if his client isn't signed by the time Spring Training opens, he'll report to the Dominican team for the Classic and showcase his talent for clubs.
"He wanted to use the opportunity of the Classic," Cuza told the paper, "not only as an opportunity to play for the Dominican Republic, which he didn't do last time, but also as an opportunity to showcase himself, to demonstrate to teams what kind of condition he's in right now."
In terms of established big league players, Martinez could be among the first to use the Classic like an on-field tryout. In a free-agent market that still has nearly 90 players unsigned, however, it's hardly surprising that the idea has come up.
The 37-year-old Martinez went 5-6 with a 5.61 ERA in 20 starts for the Mets last year after making just five starts in 2007. Between the stats and the injury struggles, it isn't altogether shocking that Martinez has been a victim of a slow market this winter despite a career 214-99 record and 2.91 ERA. He went 32-23 over the past four years with the Mets, but 15 of those wins came in 2005, the first year of his free-agent contract.
Martinez did not pitch in the inaugural Classic in 2006.
Mets general manager Omar Minaya met with Martinez in the Dominican on Wednesday, but didn't extend a contract offer, MLB.com reported Thursday. While they could still end up bringing Martinez back, they've focused their efforts on retaining fellow free-agent starter Oliver Perez, while also keeping tabs on Randy Wolf.
Martinez reportedly has yet to receive an offer from any club.
While the provisional Dominican roster is stacked with some of the game's best hitters and defensive players, the pitching corps is a little less clear. Angels 16-game winner Ervin Santana, Reds 17-game winner Edinson Volquez, Twins lefty Francisco Liriano and Cleveland sinkerballer Fausto Carmona are arguably the established starters on the staff, but the roster also includes Ubaldo Jimenez, Wandy Rodriguez, Johnny Cueto and Daniel Cabrera.
Martinez would be the elder statesman on the staff, if not the roster as a whole. It's a testament to his illustrious career, and how he performs in the Classic could play a big role in how that career continues. His offseason training has supposedly been encouraging.
"I think right now Pedro feels the best he's felt probably since the first year he signed with the Mets," Cuza told the Post. "He feels strong. There's absolutely no aches and pains."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.