Hamstring strain sends Pedro to DL

Hamstring strain sends Pedro to DL

MIAMI -- The right one is a size 11 high top; the left one is the same size but a traditional low cut. And only the high top has been modified to alleviate stress in the large toe. If the Mets are looking to fill the shoes left unoccupied by Pedro Martinez on Tuesday night, they can start there, with those specifications, though finding someone who could slip into Martinez's customized Nike spikes probably will be a less daunting task that finding a pitcher of equal quality and presence.

In no way is this a Cinderella story. Martinez is down, assigned to disabled list exile probably until the middle of next month. The Mets are down a tad, too, though in a different way. They had such high hopes for a successful start. And now this -- a mild strain of Martinez's left hamstring -- has the pitcher walking with a limp and them thinking with a hitch in their giddyup.

"It would have been cool to see them go 1-2 for three or four turns [of the rotation]," catcher Brian Schneider said of Johan Santana and Martinez. "But that hammy got Pedro right away. So we'll just have to make due."

How so was seemingly undetermined as the Mets prepared to play the Marlins on Wednesday night. The club assigned Martinez to the disabled list, assuring him of a third straight interrupted season. And it added right-handed journeyman Nelson Figueroa to their 25-man roster, though not yet to the rotation.

While manager Willie Randolph didn't say who might start in Martinez's stead, he did say who wouldn't -- Jorge Sosa. A person in the organization had characterized Sosa as the most logical choice Wednesday morning because he is a considerably stronger and more competitive pitcher than Figueroa and because he was ideally placed to take Martinez's spot. He had replaced Martinez on Tuesday night and pitched 2 2/3 innings, and was at least partially "stretched out" by that workday. Moreover, Sosa had a successful month-long run as a starter last season, he had pitched in winter ball and thereby retained necessary stamina.

But Randolph indicated he preferred not to upset the balance in the bullpen personnel by removing Sosa. Now, of the eight pitchers not in the rotation, Figueroa is the most likely to start. But Randolph said he had no person in mind because a need for the starter doesn't arise until April 12.

By then, the Mets will have a better read on several of the convalescing players -- Martinez, Orlando Hernandez and Duaner Sanchez. Hernandez is to pitch in a Class A game in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Thursday. Chances are he will need at least two additional starts to regain arm strength and stamina and to master his twice-modified delivery. Though scouts remain skeptical about his possible big league readiness, El Duque could be the quasi-permanent replacement for Martinez.

Sosa, not Figueroa, might have served in Martinez's stead at least temporarily, Randolph said, had Sanchez been on the roster. But Sosa seemingly will do Sanchez's work for the time being. He did on Opening Day on Monday, producing the third out of the eighth inning.

"We have options," Randolph said before he became aware of Martinez's prognosis. "I don't have to answer yet. We don't how long Pedro will be out. Anytime a pitcher has a hamstring, it's usually automatic DL. And we don't know how his will be. Hamstrings are tricky."

Unsaid by Mets personnel but understood in the game is that pulls in the high hamstring -- as that of Martinez -- take longer to heal and are a bit trickier than those closer to the knee.

So who can say? All the Mets know for certain is that Martinez is unavailable until at least the first days of May. And given his age, 36, and how conservative the club is with injured veteran pitchers, his absence is likely to be longer. And the longer Martinez goes without pitching, the more he will need to pitch in Minor League games or simulated conditions before he does return.

So where does that leave the Mets? Within in a few weeks and for a few weeks, their rotation may be Santana, John Maine, Oliver Perez, Hernandez and Mike Pelfrey. Would that be all that different from Tom Glavine, Maine, Perez, Hernandez and Pelfrey? Those five constituted the Mets' rotation at times last season. And Santana is a more productive pitcher now than Glavine was then.

"But that was last year, and the Philliies and Braves are better now," David Wright said. "It wouldn't be right to compare."

"We started with Pedro," Schneider said. "You like to have him here. But you go with what you have. That's what we'll do when he gets back, too."

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