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Sunday, July 26, 2009
Rain limits Pedro to 1 1/3 innings

Associated Press

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Pedro Martinez smiled after taking another step back toward the major leagues.

"I feel really good," the three-time Cy Young Award winner said Sunday. "That's the news here."

The 37-year-old's first minor league rehab start in preparation for a comeback with the Philadelphia Phillies was cut short by rain, yet the right-hander remained on track for a return with the World Series champions after an abbreviated appearance for the Class A Clearwater Threshers.

Martinez worked 1 1/3 innings before the Florida State League game against the St. Lucie Mets -- the Advanced-A affiliate of the team the eight-time All-Star played for from 2005-08 -- was stopped because of a downpour.

He felt it was "interesting" that his initial rehab outing would come against farmhands from his old team and was disappointed the day ended with him moving indoors to pitch three simulated innings instead of facing batters.

"I wasn't going to approach these kids like kids. I was going to approach them like they're big leaguers," said Martinez, who was immediately placed on the disabled list with a shoulder strain after signing a $1 million, one-year contract this month.

"When you're coming off an injury you just work on the things that you really need. If it's arm strength, you just throw fast balls, regardless of what happens. When you're healthy, and you don't have to worry about all those things, you pitch. And I wanted to pitch today. I wanted to go after those kids."

Martinez, who sat out the first half of this year after going 5-6 with a 5.61 ERA in 20 starts for the Mets last season, hit a batter and allowed one bloop hit during a 20-pitch first inning that was delayed more than 30 minutes by an early afternoon storm.

It was raining again by the time he took the mound for the second inning. After retiring the leadoff batter on a first-pitch fly ball, the right-hander threw three more pitches before play was stopped.

Martinez, who struck out Stefan Welch with a nifty changeup to end the first, threw 14 of his 24 pitches for strikes. He said his next rehab start likely will be Friday for Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

"I wanted that second inning to keep going. I started off with three good fast balls. Regardless of what happened, I threw three good fastballs. That was my main idea, to let it go at that moment and work like I was a in a real game."

Clearwater manager Ernie Whitt was impressed with what he saw.

"It's an inning and a third, you really can't judge that," Whitt said. "He did throw one real good changeup to strike out the hitter. That's the changeup that you're used to seeing.

"I'm sure he was a little rusty, too. He hasn't faced a hitter in a while in a live game situation. I think he's going to be fine."

The game was called after a 34-minute delay. Midway through the break, Martinez trotted up the left field line to the clubhouse at the Phillies' spring training home, and finished his work indoors.

"We got the call from Philly and they wanted him to go ahead and finish his pitches in the cage in a controlled situation," the manager said.

Martinez, 214-99 with a 2.91 ERA in 467 career games for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Montreal Expos, Boston Red Sox and New York Mets, has not pitched in the majors since September.

Fans lined the railing above the bullpen in left field to get a glimpse of the eight-time All-Star warming up.

Some of Clearwater's pitchers were curious, too, getting an even closer look from along the fence inside in the bullpen.

Phillies prospect Dominic Brown started in right field and singled and scored a run in the first inning in support of Martinez, who led 2-0 when the game was stopped.

"Of course it's disappointing when Pedro Martinez is on the mound, a future Hall of Famer most likely," Brown said. "It's great to be out there. It's just humbling to be out there. I'm a little down right now because I wanted to finish the game."