10/01/09 1:36 AM EST
Pedro elated to be part of Phils' success
Midseason pickup grateful for chance to pitch in playoffs
By David Gurian-Peck / MLB.com
He waved it in the air as he joyfully jogged to the festivities by first base after Philadelphia claimed the division crown on Wednesday night.
Just months after being discarded by the rest of baseball as a has-been, there was Martinez, front and center in a team's celebration and postseason run.
"It's exactly what I wanted to see when I came back to the big leagues," Martinez said. "This is my reward for all that I've been through over the last three years."
The 37-year-old right-hander's Hall of Fame resume includes three Cy Young Awards, eight All-Star selections and five ERA titles. But he hadn't had a good season since 2005. Over the past 2 1/2 injury-riddled years, Martinez was just 10-11 with a 5.52 ERA. So as the Winter Meetings, Spring Training and Opening Day sailed by, nobody was interested in him.
But then in midseason, the Phillies -- who had unequivocally said just weeks before that they did not want Martinez -- desperately needed pitching. Their rotation was scuffling and Brett Myers succumbed to hip surgery. All of a sudden, Martinez seemed like a worthwhile signing.
They did not know how effectively he could pitch. But at a cost of a prorated $2 million -- about $900,000 in guaranteed salary -- there was little risk.
In nine starts, Martinez has provided ample return on that investment. He is 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA. He has 37 strikeouts and eight walks in 44 2/3 innings. Those numbers might look even better if not for a couple of rain-shortened outings and a stiff neck.
He was simply brilliant when he tossed eight shutout innings against his former employer, the Mets, on Sept. 13 -- and threw 130 pitches in the process, his highest total in eight years.
More than anything, he is healthy.
"That's a tribute to Pedro and the work ethic that he has and how much he put into it," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "He wanted to come back and do it. That's who he is."
Martinez did not find the perfect ending to this comeback run. He had a chance to record the victory in the division clincher but instead lasted only four innings. He said that was by design; pitching coach Rich Dubee told him that the outing was just a "tuneup" for things to come.
What exactly lies ahead for Martinez remains uncertain. The Phillies have five thriving starters, but no more than four will start in the postseason. J.A. Happ has been phenomenal in the rotation, but the left-handed rookie could also be used to shore up the back end of the bullpen.
Martinez will meet with Dubee and Manuel in the coming days to discuss his role.
But he will certainly be on the postseason roster. And over the second half, he has provided the Phils with veteran leadership, some personality and, of course, victories.
"This guy's a big student of the game," Manuel said. "He's got a good sense of humor about him and jokes around, but he's a real top-notch competitor, and he definitely wants to be out there. One thing good about him, if you beat him, you just beat someone who really cares and who's going to put everything into it."
A champagne-soaked Martinez couldn't be happier.
"Hopefully, this won't stop here," he said. "That's why it took me longer to come back to the big leagues. I wanted a team that would give me a chance for this."
David Gurian-Peck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.