Pedro Martinez made his first rehab start of the season on Sunday for Philadelphia’s A-level affiliate in Clearwater. One of our bestest blog friends, the inimitable Jordi Scrubbings, was there to witness Petey’s rain-shortened outing:
Martinez, signed by the Phillies a few weeks ago, was clearly not the Pedro of old and I could tell he knew it. The 97 mph fastball was long gone, the aura and mystic was fading, and he was fighting to prove his ability to merely contribute. The former Cy Young ace was now a conjurer, a Merlin of the mound, hoping his knowledge, guile, and a little bit of smoke and mirrors was enough to make it back to the Show.
Last time Pedro returned from a long layoff, in 1997, Scott Hatteberg said much the same thing – he didn’t have the heat, didn’t have the breaking stuff, had a long way to go to return to respectability. At the time, here’s what I wrote about that comeback, which saw him pick up his 3,000th career strikeout:
Pedro will never have his “old stuff” back. He’s 35 years old with a variety of injuries. He’s a back-end starter, a guy who goes out there once a week or so when the team needs a boost and manages to claw and scratch and fight for five or six innings before handing things over to the bullpen. He’s the guy who can sit on the bench and talk to the young pitchers about their approach – they’ll never have his ability, but they can have his brain.
I don’t think that’s changed. I think Pedro has accepted his shortcomings and wants to be the sort of pitcher who can contribute in any way possible. The question now is whether or not he can will his body to be capable of even that much. Jordi saw him in action, and while it was only 1 1/3 innings, he was not optimistic:
As it was the major league Mets who put him out to pasture after last season, the minor league Mets put the final nail in his legendary career. Although I didn’t expect Pedro to dominate, it was clear he was struggling. Most of his pitches were up in the zone, the Mets were getting good wood on the ball, and he only produced one swinging miss, albeit on a classic Pedro change-up. The box score will say Pedro didn’t do that badly, giving up one hit, hitting a batter, and striking one. But great change-up aside, I’d say his tank is empty.
Please, God, let Jordi be wrong, just this once. Let this be the Pedro of old breaking himself in the way he knew best, by working on whatever it was he wanted and not caring about the results. Let there be one more thunderclap in that golden right arm, one more ten strikeout performance on a hazy summer day, one more outing that makes me call my son into the room and say, “Son, THIS is what greatness looks like.”