Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Pedro rehabs with a mound full of kids

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - The funny thing about playing in minor league games is that everyone eventually gets treated equally.

Pedro Martinez has been rehabbing here after undergoing rotator cuff surgery last October. He's pretty much holed up in the minor league complex, keeping separate from the Florida State League’s St. Lucie Mets.

He was slated to pitch last Wednesday with St. Lucie, but got rained out. The Mets were on the road the next day – a whopping 30 minutes away in Jupiter – but Martinez opted not to make the trip, choosing instead to pitch a simulated game at the Mets minor league complex.

He finally made a start for St. Lucie tonight, but never moved into clubhouse, choosing to dress in the minor league complex well away from the ballpark. Once he entered the gates, though, he could no longer duck the minor league hubbub.

The Dugout laughed as St. Lucie took the field accompanied by about 50 children who were part of a baseball camp. Dozens followed Martinez to the mound, asking him questions and shaking his hand before the National Anthem.

St. Lucie third baseman Daniel Murphy could only look over at the gathering. None of the campers joined him at the hot corner.

“That’s one of the things you are not used to,” Martinez said of the pow-wow. “It’s fun. It’s beautiful. It’s nice to see those kids out there. I think about mine and it gives me the same joy.”

Martinez said the kids told him it was nice to meet him and that they were his biggest fan.

“You recognize your spring training hat,” Martinez laughed. “It’s beautiful.”

Martinez gave the fans a little something back when he struck out designated “Taco Bell K-man of the Game” Max Leon in the second inning, earning every fan in the stadium a coupon for a free taco.

For those interested in the numbers, they we’re pretty. He allowed five earned runs on six hits in three innings of work. He blamed most of the trouble on his inability to get a feel for his sinker.

He was jovial following the performance, stating more than once just how pleased he was to pitch in a real game again.

“I can’t wait for the next five days to come by so I can get back in there and make the adjustments I have to make to actually get back to New York,” said Martinez, 35. “I’m bored. I don’t want to be in Florida anymore.”

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