Mets may have filled Saturday slot
In Pedro's absence, Knight appears likely to step in and start
NEW YORK -- With Pedro Martinez back in the Dominican Republic, grieving the loss of his father, Pablo, the Mets on Thursday set about the business of determining who his replacement might be.
And the winner, it appears, is Brandon Knight.
A Mets official confirmed Thursday that Knight, 32, is the most likely candidate to pitch Saturday in lieu of Martinez. Originally scheduled to pitch Thursday evening for Triple-A New Orleans, Knight will instead skip that start and head to New York, where he will face the Cardinals on two extra days of rest.
His statistics justify the choice. Since joining the Zephyrs, Knight is 5-1 with a 1.60 ERA. He has fanned 49 batters and walked 10 in 39 1/3 innings, earning Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week honors after striking out 12 in six scoreless innings last Saturday.
Only months after considering retirement, Knight has enjoyed something of a renaissance in the Minor Leagues, even earning a roster spot on Team USA for the Beijing Olympics. He began this season with the Somerset (N.J.) Patriots of the Atlantic League, before the Mets took notice and offered him a Minor League contract in May.
"My wife, Brooke, convinced me to go for it and in my heart, I felt I needed to give myself one more chance," Knight told MLB.com last week.
Knight's brief Major League career with the Yankees included 11 relief appearances over two seasons, in which he produced a 10.71 ERA. He has not pitched in the big leagues since 2002.
The fact that he will do that Saturday is both a matter of chance and well-timed success. Knight boasted better numbers than any of the other Minor League candidates the Mets had available -- Brian Stokes, Ruddy Lugo and Jon Niese among them -- but he couldn't match the experience that Claudio Vargas gave the team in four starts this year.
Vargas likely would have earned consideration yet again, but he had already taken the mound for the Zephyrs by the time Martinez learned of his father's death on Wednesday. Nelson Figueroa, another alumnus of the rotation, also would not have had adequate rest. And Tony Armas remains on the disabled list with a strained abdominal muscle.
The Mets, meanwhile, hope that Martinez will miss only one outing, but manager Jerry Manuel acknowledged that he had no clear picture of how long the grieving process might last.
"Grieving takes a life of its own," Manuel said. "We have to be cognizant of that."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.