Pedro day-to-day with right calf strain

Pedro day-to-day with right calf strain

PHILADELPHIA -- With 49 games remaining before a postseason in which they expect to prosper, the Mets again are ill at ease because the physical condition of the pitcher most critical to their October aspirations again is a troubling issue.

The immediate availability of Pedro Martinez -- and perhaps his long-term availability as well -- were put in doubt again on Monday night when he was removed from his start against the Phillies after straining a muscle in his right calf.

While the Mets were enduring a 13-0 drubbing that began with Martinez allowing six runs in the first inning, the pitcher was headed to New York for a Tuesday morning MRI exam that was to put his diagnosis and prognosis in clearer focus. The club provided little more information about the latest right leg malady to affect Martinez than to characterize the prognosis as "day-to-day" and to say that Martinez first had experienced discomfort in his calf as he warmed up in the bullpen.

What followed the warmup and the Phillies' half of the first inning was a nine-batter sequence that was quite uncharacteristic of Martinez, replete with successive hit batsmen and the fifth balk of his career. It prompted renewed concern for an organization that has lived with pitching rotation issues since late April.

Martinez, 34, twice had been the focal point of the concern. He missed most of Spring Training and excused himself from the World Baseball Classic in March because of inflammation in the large toe on his right foot. And he was assigned to the disabled list July 6, retroactive to June 29, because of inflammation in his right hip. The DL assignment was extended to July 28 after he was stricken by food poisoning while home in the Dominican Republic during the All-Star break.

Martinez had made three starts subsequent to his return before Monday. Two were victories; the other, a Mets loss, was a no-decision. The loss Monday night was his fifth in 14 decisions. The six runs increased his ERA from 3.42 to 3.84.

When he starts again is an unknown. Until he is examined and the club shares the results of the examinations, no one knows what to think.

"Obviously, you hope it's nothing serious," said Paul Lo Duca, Martinez's catcher.

Manager Willie Randolph, pitching coach Rick Peterson and coach Guy Conti, Martinez's confidante, met after the game. They declined to speculate about the severity of the injury, whether Martinez would miss more time or how much time he might miss. In some ways, the injury didn't seem too serious. Indeed, Martinez wanted to resume pitching in second inning.

"He told me it was getting looser," Randolph said.

The manager wasn't made aware of the pregame sensations Martinez had experienced. Peterson said Martinez mentioned the discomfort as they left the bullpen.

"It didn't seem like a big thing," the coach said. He noted that veteran pitchers typically experience some muscle tightness in a pregame warmup.

Randolph and Peterson each said "Pedro knows his body better than anyone."

"He didn't pop anything." Randolph said. "He looked OK. He was just getting hit."

Lo Duca had sensed something was wrong with his pitcher when Martinez's first fastballs reached his mitt without normal velocity. By the time, the Phillies' No. 3 batter, Chase Utley, stood in the batter's box, Lo Duca consulted with his pitcher on the mound.

"He smiled at me and said he wanted to stay out there," the catcher said.

Lo Duca reminded Martinez of the Mets' lead in the division -- now 14 games over the second-place Phillies.

"Don't force anything now," the catcher later said he told Martinez. "We don't need you now. We need you in October."

Martinez, though, remained on the mound for three outs, throwing 35 pitches and enduring the equal of the second most damaging inning of his career. It also was the second shortest -- in terms of outs -- among his 372 big-league starts.

Pitching for the Red Sox against the Orioles at Fenway Park on April 12, 2003, Martinez surrendered seven runs in the fifth inning. And he had been responsible for six of the seven runs the Expos allowed in the second inning against the Giants July 1, 1994, in San Francisco. He never had allowed six runs in the first inning.

Two other Mets pitchers, Alay Soler and Heath Bell, allowed eight runs each in the Mets' 16-7 loss to the Yankees on July 2, and Soler was responsible for seven in the third inning. Jose Lima allowed six runs in the fourth inning against the Marlins five days later. Orlando Hernandez allowed six in the second inning against the Blue Jays on June 24.

Martinez's one shorter start was June 20, 1995, against the Astros. He faced eight batters in that game, but achieved only two outs, one on a pickoff. One of the three outs Monday night came when Phillies third baseman Abraham Nunez was thrown out at third base trying to stretch his three-run double into a triple.

Martinez was guilty of an error, a wide pickoff throw, but all the runs were earned. He allowed four hits -- three singles and Nunez's double. He hit Aaron Rowand with the bases loaded, balked in a run and then hit Chris Coste to load the bases for Nunez.

Martinez had balked in a run once previously, 11 years earlier to the day, also in Philadelphia.

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