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Pedro set for first spring start

Pedro set for first spring start

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Pedro Martinez might not be used to this whole Spring Training business, but he's about to get a crash course in the finer points of the Grapefruit League.

After missing the entirety of last year's Spring Training -- not to mention a hefty chunk of the regular season -- due to injury, Martinez will be able to pitch this year without quite so long a wait. He's scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut on Thursday night against the Nationals in Viera, Fla.

"Anytime you see your big boys go out there and work, you always look forward to that," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "It's fun to watch [Johan] Santana work, and Pedro, and all the kids, but I don't know what to expect. He might go out there and strike out 10."

Probably not, considering he'll be limited to three innings at the most. Martinez, like all starters at this point in the spring, will focus more on location and developing a feel for his pitches than he will on his stat line and overall success.

"I'm not really taking away from it, but I'm not expecting much," Randolph said. "He can go out there and give up 10 runs, and it won't matter to me -- as long as he comes out of it healthy."

That's no small caveat, considering the current state of the Mets. Six of the eight Mets regulars are currently out with injuries, and four backups are also hurt.

Though the injuries haven't wreaked much havoc on Randolph's pitching staff -- only reliever Duaner Sanchez and possible fifth starter Orlando Hernandez currently have maladies -- Randolph will be certain to exercise caution while the spring remains young, especially with a starter as potentially fragile as Martinez.

In 2006, a year after signing with the Mets for four years and $53 million, Martinez tore his right rotator cuff and required surgery, which caused him to miss the 2006 playoffs and most of last season. He returned a different -- but equally effective -- pitcher last August, relying on finesse and guile to post a 3-1 record and 2.57 ERA in five starts.

Now, his health issues seem to be completely in the past.

"I'm really totally comfortable," Martinez said earlier this spring. "That's the way it's supposed to feel, and that's how I used to feel before I got hurt. I would just pick up a ball, throw it, go through my routine and feel like I could do it an hour later."

He'll start a game on Thursday night that's also scheduled to include closer Billy Wagner and right-handed setup man Aaron Heilman. Barring any setbacks, he'll then pitch every fifth day until the beginning of the season.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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