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Pedro sharp in latest rehab outing

Pedro sharp in latest rehab outing

JUPITER, Fla. -- Pedro Martinez continued to edge closer to a return to the Mets on Monday night. But he is very likely to make one more Minor League start before it happens.

When it was mentioned that Mets manager Willie Randolph told reporters in Philadelphia to expect Martinez to make another rehab start, the 35-year-old right-hander did not flinch.

"I'm not going to go against anything they say," Martinez said after giving up one unearned run over six innings for the Class A St. Lucie Mets. "It's more about their wishes even as much as I want it. If somebody gets hurt and they feel they need me, I'm pretty sure they'd take their chances with me."

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Martinez expressed a desire to make his next Minor League start in Florida, as they all have been.

"It doesn't make any difference for me to throw in Double-A or Triple-A over what I'm doing now," he said. "It's more about me getting command of my pitches than who I'm facing. Anyway, whatever happens in these games, you won't find the numbers on the back of any baseball cards."

That was his way of saying the only significant numbers are compiled in the Majors, where he plans to be soon.

Facing the Palm Beach Cardinals in a game the Mets eventually lost, 3-1, Martinez yielded five hits, walked two and struck out four. Fifty-two of his 88 pitches went for strikes.

That is an abnormally low strike-ball ratio for the veteran right-hander, but he explained it by saying he was able to throw all of his pitches in the game.

That means the cut fastball and changeup -- two pitches that concerned Martinez after his last start -- became useful pitches for him in this game.

Martinez felt a "little out of whack" when he started the game, in large part because it had been a week since he last pitched. It showed when he needed 40 pitches to get through the first two innings. But then he required just 48 pitches to make it through the last four innings.

"I got more confidence as I went along," he said. "I was trying to execute my plan. I was trying to nibble -- low and low away. I even threw a little sinker and got a guy to ground out on a 3-0 pitch."

That came in the third inning. Yet Martinez's biggest achievement of the game likely came in the sixth. He walked the first batter and then gave up a double. When the next batter grounded out to first base, St. Lucie manager Frank Cacciatore came out for a visit.

Martinez was at 82 pitches and some thought Cacciatore came out to remove him from the game. The Mets had said he would throw between 80 and 90 pitches. But Cacciatore, trying to win a Florida State League title, asked Martinez to walk the next batter to set up a double-play situation.

Martinez declined.

"No, this is the situation I want, to see if I can make pitches, test myself," Martinez said he told the manager. "That was actually the key for the whole workout. I wanted to test myself, to see if I could execute at that moment."

It worked out just fine. Martinez, who had rotator cuff surgery last Oct. 5, struck out the next hitter and then prompted an inning-ending flyout to right field.

When somebody mentioned that Martinez could not have gotten away with ignoring Randolph as he did Cacciatore, the pitcher smiled.

"Willie probably wouldn't have even come out," he said. "He would have just put up four fingers and that would have been it."

Martinez plans to throw his next bullpen session as if he's pitching in a simulated game.

"I'll continue to work on my changeup and my cutter, especially the back door ones," he said.

He knows he is very close now to becoming a Met again. And if it takes another week or so, that is OK with him.

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