Al Leiter’s return to Shea Stadium isn’t likely to be an easy one.
Spurned by the Mets this past offseason, Leiter will try to outduel Pedro Martinez and halt New York’s five-game winning streak as he takes the ball for the Florida Marlins in the middle game of their weekend series.
After helping Florida win the 1997 World Series, Leiter was traded to New York during the Marlins’ offseason purge. He proceeded to anchor the Mets’ starting rotation for seven seasons, helping them reach the postseason in 1999 and the World Series in 2000.
But new general manager Omar Minaya made only a lukewarm attempt to re-sign the veteran left-hander this past offseason, instead focusing on landing Martinez, who will make his Shea debut Saturday.
Leiter got a preview of what type of response he’ll get from Mets fans during Friday night’s 4-0 defeat as a video tribute of his tenure with the team was met by a chorus of boos.
“I lived out a boyhood dream. I was a Mets fan,” Leiter said. “I embraced the city as much as any baseball player in the history in New York sports. I loved it.”
Martinez, who moved to New York from Boston for a four-year, $53 million contract, started the Mets’ winning streak with an impressive performance in Sunday’s 8-1 victory at Atlanta.
The right-hander threw the 43rd complete game of his career, striking out nine and walking only one.
“Pedro said, `I’m not coming out,”’ first-year Mets manager Willie Randolph said. “That’s just the kind of warrior he is.”