Various injuries have kept Pedro Martinez from pitching a full season in two years.
He hopes to put those setbacks behind him in 2008 and eventually help the New York Mets mount a run to their first World Series title since 1986.
The aging right-hander gets his first chance to do that Tuesday night when he takes the mound against the Florida Marlins in the middle game of their series.
Martinez has been sidelined by foot, hip, calf and shoulder injuries over the last two seasons, including reconstructive surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff.
Martinez’s rigorous rehabilitation took a toll on him last year. The three-time Cy Young Award winner returned to the mound late in the season, going 3-1 with a 2.57 ERA and 32 strikeouts in five starts, but still never felt 100 percent.
“When I came back I was still beat up from all the work. I was still stiff,” Martinez said. “I was healthy, but I was mentally and physically fatigued.”
Entering the final season of a $53 million, four-year contract, the 36-year-old hurler said he’d like to keep pitching for the Mets (1-0) beyond 2008.
“It’s going to be all dictated by my health,” Martinez said of his future. “If I’m healthy, I still have a couple years left. … If I don’t finish as a Met, I think it’s going to be a long haul to find another team or whatever.”
Martinez said he feels better than he has in almost a decade - before his right shoulder gave him any problems at all. But he’s not sure he’ll be able to make 30-plus starts this season. He hasn’t reached that mark since making 31 starts in 2005 - his first season with New York after spending seven in Boston.
He should have some motivation, though, since he was embarrassed by the Mets’ historic collapse to end 2007. They squandered a seven-game NL East lead with 17 to play and missed the playoffs, conceding the division to Philadelphia on the final day of the season.
“I’m not used to it. I was born a winner. I don’t want to go down like that,” Martinez said.
He will try to help the Mets build on Monday’s season-opening 7-2 win at Florida (0-1), as Johan Santana was impressive in his team debut with seven strong innings.
Martinez is thrilled to have Santana on the team, but he feels he can also contribute at a high level for New York.
“I know Johan is an ace. And when I get the ball, I’m an ace,” he said. “When I get the ball as a starter, I’m the guy styling.”
The eight-time All-Star is 5-2 with a 1.89 ERA in 10 games at Florida, where New York has won 11 of its last 12 games.
Wright drove in three runs with a double in the fourth inning Monday, and went 2-for-4 to improve his career batting average to .348 at Dolphin Stadium.
The Marlins turn to 22-year-old Rick VandenHurk to help them rebound from losing the season opener.
The 6-foot-5 right-hander went 4-6 with a 6.83 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 81 2-3 innings over 18 games - 17 starts - as a rookie in 2007.
He struggled in two starts against the Mets, going 0-1 with a 12.00 ERA, striking out 12 in nine frames while allowing four home runs.
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