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05/22/07 10:39 PM ET

Mets: Martinez could return by August

GM Minaya is optimistic about the recovery of righty ace

ATLANTA -- If the Mets' wishful thinking comes to pass, three-time Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez will be back on the mound by August.

Martinez, who underwent surgery on his right shoulder in October to repair a torn rotator cuff, still hasn't begun throwing off a mound, and the Mets can't say with any certainty when he will return. But Mets general manager Omar Minaya expressed hope on Tuesday for an August return by the right-hander.

"Things with Pedro are moving forward very nicely," Minaya told the Associated Press during a visit to the Dominican Republic. "We are hoping for his return in August, but the most important thing is that he recovers from his injury."

Minaya and Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon were in the Dominican Republic to break ground a $7.5 million baseball academy. The team also announced it will play three exhibition games in the country next spring.

Mets manager Willie Randolph confirmed Martinez has not begun throwing off a mound, and won't until he completes other phases of his rehab.

"He hasn't been on the mound yet," Randolph said, following the Mets' 8-1 loss to the Braves Tuesday night. "He's on a program that's leading up to that. I don't have the schedule in front of me, but he's making nice progress, and that's what we're hoping for, that he'll be back sooner rather than later."

Martinez, 35, who went 9-8 with a career-high 4.48 ERA in 2006, is in the third year of the four-year, $53 million contract extension he signed in December 2004.

The seven-time All-Star began light toss in early March and has been continuing rehab since then.

Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.