Mets ace right-hander Pedro Martinez moved closer to climbing a mound on Monday, working out in the outfield at Tradition Field in regular baseball shoes, his now-famous right Nike cleat in for modifications.
"It's getting there," Martinez said. "It's getting more comfortable each time."
It was a scene very similar to the one on Saturday, when Martinez traded throws with manager Willie Randolph across the outfield of a back field.
This time, Randolph was an observer, consulting with a group of interested onlookers that included pitching coach Rick Peterson, bullpen coach Guy Conti, Triple-A pitching coach Randy Niemann and trainer Ray Ramirez.
Martinez's session lasted about 10 minutes, backing up nearly to the warning track in center field while exchanging tosses with bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello, who was perched near the left-field foul line.
"I'm trying to act normal and see how it's going to respond, and hopefully make the adjustments," said Martinez, who noticeably increased velocity as he concluded the session.
The Mets are still working on changes to Martinez's cleat, with tweaks ordered to the front spikes following Martinez's feedback on Saturday. The pitcher threw on Monday using a regular shoe with a silicone pad guarding the right side, which Martinez said was "not quite as comfortable" for his injured big toe.
Martinez said the next step will be testing his footwork on an actual mound, which could happen this week. He would start at the bottom of the hill and gradually move up to the rubber.
"Probably by the weekend, I'll try to get on the slope of the mound and start working," Martinez said.
This spring, Martinez has been able to throw only off of flat ground, patiently nursing an ailment that cut short his 2005 season by two starts last September. With Mets pitchers already deep into fielding drills, Martinez has been absent, conducting his workouts indoors by lifting weights and riding a stationary bicycle.
"He's getting his work in and doing his cardio and hitting the weight room pretty hard," Randolph said. "That'll all play out pretty soon."
"I have plenty of time to do [fielding drills]," Martinez said. "[After] 15 years, I learned some of those things."
A brief hello: Kaz Matsui stopped by Tradition Field on Monday, but heleft almost as quickly as he arrived.
Wearing facial hair that will almost certainly disappear before Tuesday's scheduled report date for the rest of the club, Matsui unloaded his belongings from a silver Mazda coupe into his locker, pausing only to tell reporters in Japanese, "Everything is good so far."
When he entered the clubhouse, Matsui would have discovered his locker has been moved from its corner location last spring. Matsui's old locker is now reserved for veteran Bret Boone, one of Matsui's challengers at second base this spring.
Wright takes in Daytona 500: Few people in the Mets' immediate family are so conspicuous by their absence as David Wright. Something close to a sense of alarm develops when he isn't at his locker, in the cage or at third base taking ground balls.
So it was Sunday when the Mets worked out without the player who quickly is becoming the face of the team. Cliff Floyd wasn't there either -- neither was supposed to be -- but had he been, he certainly would have noticed Wright's absence. Like the Stones without Mick Jagger, M*A*S*H without Hawkeye, the Yankees without Derek Jeter.
"Where's that Dee-Rite?" Floyd would have asked with artificial annoyance.
The answer Sunday was Daytona, Fla., specifically the Daytona 500. Wright, hardly a racing aficionado, and a buddy made the trip to witness the phenomenon of NASCAR, to be amazed by the sound, speed and precision of the competition.
"To me, it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see something like that," Wright said Monday when he returned to camp, when he was conspicuous by his presence.
"I bought the tickets in December. I saw the date and the date of when I had to report [to camp]. So I could go. ... It was amazing. You don't get the whole experience on television. They're going 220 miles per hour on a 2 1/2-mile track. They change tires and gas it up in 12 seconds. It's amazing.
"The track is barely wide enough for four cars and they have three across, going 220 miles per hour. ... It's banked, the bank is like three stories high. I didn't realize that. And it was so foggy you couldn't see the other side."
His appreciation continued to gush. But, evidently, it will remain appreciation and never morph into participation. Wright still prefers his sport to all others. And he considers a car a means of transportation not a means of excitement. He drives an SUV.
And he didn't even drive the two hours to Daytona. "Got a car service," he said.
Wagner doesn't miss Philly fans: The infamous Philadelphia boo birds left a lasting impression on Billy Wagner, the Phillies closer for two years before signing with the Mets. "They'd boo me if my first warm pitch wasn't a hundred miles an hour," Wagner said Monday within earshot of Steve Trachsel.
Said Trachsel: "That's why I've always held back and kept it in the low 90s."
Recalling Wilson's strength: Part of the Mets' daily training regimen involves the use of yellow rubber medicine balls that can be more than a tad unwieldy. In moments of rest, players toss them around as if they basketballs but quickly learn they are more like anvils. Some even try dribbling.
None, however, can do with one of these 6.6-pound balls what Preston Wilson did so easily eight years ago when he was in camp. He not only dribbled, he stopped his dribble with one hand -- palm down -- and walked carrying the ball as if it were made of Styrofoam.
Dennis Cook, in his first Mets camp, was stunned. "I'm from Texas," he said. "And that kid is Texas strong."
Said Al Leiter: "I always heard Gil Hodges had the strongest hands in baseball -- him or Hondo [Frank Howard], Could they have been any stronger than Preston's?"
No current Met has come close to palming the ball. But Mike Pelfrey, the 6-foot-7 pitcher the Mets selected in the first round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, seems like the best bet. He's quite big.
Bryan Hoch is a contributor to MLB.com. Marty Noble, a reporter for MLB.com, contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.