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Martinez Unsure He’ll Pitch in Playoffs

September 28, 2006

ATLANTA (AP) _ The New York Mets managed to win their first NL East title since 1988 with Pedro Martinez battling injuries all season. They will have to show that same resiliency in the postseason.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner seems in no shape to pitch in next week’s NL division series after getting knocked around badly in his final start of the regular season. The Mets had hoped to go with Martinez in Game 1, but it seems more likely that Orlando Hernandez or Tom Glavine will get the honor.

In fact, Martinez wonders if he’ll be able to pitch at all with an ailing right calf that has transformed his pitches into batting-practice fodder. He headed back to New York on Thursday to get evaluated by team doctors.

``It’s taken a lot away from me: my confidence and the location of my pitches,″ Martinez said before he left Atlanta. ``When you don’t have the legs to push off and create velocity and locate your pitches, you’re in trouble. And I can’t locate right now.″

Martinez (9-8) has lost four straight starts _ the first when his calf began hurting, the last three since coming off a monthlong stint on the disabled list. He looked downright awful against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night, giving up eight hits, seven runs and two homers in a 2 2-3 innings.

``He couldn’t command his pitches,″ said Atlanta catcher Brian McCann, who hit the first of back-to-back homers off Martinez in the third. ``He was getting behind in the count.″

Martinez conceded that it would be tougher for the Mets to advance in the playoffs without him, though they’ve made it this far without a big contribution from their ace. He was bothered in spring training by a sore toe, went on the DL at midseason with an ailing hip and fell short of 10 wins for only the second time in his 14-year career.

``When I’m out or hurting, obviously we’re not going to do as good,″ Martinez said. ``Anytime you lose a No. 1 pitcher, one of your five starters, it’s going to hurt you a little bit. But these guys are professionals. They know how to do things. They’ve done really, really well without me. I hope they can do that again and pick me up during the time I’m limited or away.″

The Mets wrapped up the NL East title with nearly two weeks left in the regular season and looked to be a strong favorite to reach the World Series from a league that will have no other playoff team with 90 wins.

But, if Martinez is unable to go, New York would appear to have one glaring weakness: starting pitching. Beyond Glavine (14-7) and Hernandez (10-11 going into a start Thursday night), the other potential starters are Steve Trachsel, whose 15 wins are mitigated by an ERA of nearly 5.00, and six-game winner John Maine.

Martinez’s teammates aren’t giving up on their ace making a sudden recovery in time for the playoffs, though they’re also preparing for the alternative.

``If something crazy happens and we’re minus Pedro, somebody else will step up and get the job done,″ David Wright said. ``We’ve been doing it all year. Somebody has always stepped up and filled the shoes.″

Manager Willie Randolph reserved judgment on how he might use Martinez in the playoffs.

``Obviously, he didn’t pitch too well,″ Randolph said. ``We’ll have to wait and see.″

Martinez figures the manager has seen enough _ a 16.97 ERA over his last four starts, giving up 22 hits and 20 earned runs in 11 2-3 innings.

``The way it’s looking right now, Willie will not have a tough decision about who should pitch Game 1,″ Martinez said. ``Obviously, the other guys are in better shape than I am right now. Everybody can see that. I think it would be a bad decision for Willie to put me out there the way I look now.″

When Martinez first strained his calf muscle, he didn’t think it was that big a deal. Now he knows better.

``It affects my shoulder, it affects my legs, it affects my back. It affects everything really,″ he said. ``Those legs are everything. Without them, it’s impossible to get the result you want.″

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