Pedro's pitching session an event

Pedro's pitching session an event

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- "Spring Training event" qualifies as something of an oxymoron -- an important development or incident at a time that is routinely uneventful.

When Pedro Martinez faced batters for the first time Wednesday morning, though, it was nothing less than an event, replete with teammates, coaches, executives, a trainer and a dozen reporters watching, a brief consultation with the head groundskeeper and a few adjustments of the protective screen in front of the mound, his shoes and his Mets crown.

This camp hasn't experienced an event so grand since Bobby Bonilla skated to work on green patent leather rollerblades 13 years ago. And this development has more serious consequences -- most of them encouraging for this team that firmly grasps this correlation -- the more Pedro pitches, the greater the chances of October baseball in Queens.

Martinez now is 61 pitches closer to being ready to pitch in the first week of the season after his morning session against two happy-to-be-there Minor League players. Whether an Opening Day start remains a viable possibility is another issue. His tentative schedule includes another batting practice session on Sunday and then, after presumably another three days of rest, a start in an exhibition game.

If Martinez were to remain on an every-fourth-day regimen for two starts, he wouldn't make his second until March 27. By then, Tom Glavine, Martinez's Opening Day understudy, will have made five.

All that said, Martinez's performance Wednesday morning did peel another layer of doubt from his opening-week availability. And no one officially has eliminated him from April 3 consideration.

"The way he threw today," Triple-A pitching coach Randy Niemann said, "I wouldn't put it past him. He didn't look like somebody just starting out. He moved the ball in and out, threw all his pitches [except for the cutter] and changed speeds. He has so many weapons in his arsenal."

Pitching from the mound on the artificial grass field, Martinez showed that he has made genuine progress.

"It was a big step forward," Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson said. "He showed command of all his pitches and showed a lot of stamina."

More stamina, evidently, than he or the staff had anticipated.

Because the large toe on his right foot still is a problem -- and probably will be until some unplanned surgery not in the immediate future -- Martinez rides a stationary bicycle instead of running. He wasn't sure how that change would affect his conditioning, but he was pleased Wednesday morning.

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Martinez pitched to a pair of Class A players -- outfielder Corey Coles and catcher Rafael Arroyo -- and he essentially broke his work into three innings of 20 or so pitches.

A crowd that included Billy Wagner, Mike Pelfrey and Yusaku Iriki gathered. Steve Trachsel left before the batting practice began.

"I don't have to stay," Trachsel said. "I've already got a hit off him."

Martinez overcame initial stiffness, the unfamiliarity of having a screen in front of him and a dry wind that made the ball a tad slick. And facing a left-handed hitter, Coles, was, "a little weird," Martinez said.

But it all seemed to work. Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon watched Martinez throw from behind the plate. He gave a "thumbs up."

Wagner had stayed to see the movement on Martinez's pitches.

"I can't hit 'em," was the conclusion Wagner reached.

And Coles, a .292 career hitter, gave his take, too.

"Whoa," he said after one turn against Martinez.

Coles was more expansive later.

"It's not every day you do that. He looked pretty good," Coles said. "I'm gonna tell my parents."

In other news: The Mets assigned four non-roster pitchers -- right-handers Anderson Garcia, Tim Lavigne and Alay Soler and southpaw Mike Venafro -- to Minor League camp on Wednesday.

Marty Noble is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.