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08/02/07 4:27 PM ET

Simulated game a positive for Pedro

Rehabbing Mets ace throws 50 of 67 pitches for strikes

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Several hours after rotator cuff surgery last Oct. 5, Pedro Martinez recalls Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek saying to him that the surgery came out well.

"You do things right," Martinez said Altchek told him, "and you're going to be okay."

The Mets' celebrated right-hander thought of those words Thursday afternoon, after passing his most strenuous test thus far in making a comeback.

Martinez showed up at Tradition Field believing he would throw about 45 pitches in a simulated game. He ended up throwing 67 and later declared that he has more knowledge now that all the work he's done in overcoming rotator cuff surgery has been worth it.

"I feel better about my stamina and my endurance on the mound," he said. "And toward the end, I felt better than at the first of the game. That tells me I just need more work."

Then someone asked him if he now believes he will be pitching at Shea Stadium before season's end.

After a pause, he said with some force, "I feel better about stepping on the mound anywhere -- because I wasn't sure what to expect, what my response was going to be after I pitched a little bit. But now I know. It's just a matter of time."

Just a matter of time, he was saying, before he would be pitching for the Mets again. Assuming he has no problem from Thursday's effort, Martinez is expected to pitch again either next Tuesday or Wednesday for the Mets' Port St. Lucie Class A team.

Martinez, who is just two strikeouts short of 3,000 and has 206 career victories, has been out since Oct. 5 surgery for a torn rotator cuff.

He allowed two runs Thursday morning, one of them earned, in 5 1/3 innings while facing the Mets' Gulf Coast League team composed of rookies. He threw 50 strikes and was particularly sharp in the last three innings, when 24 of his 28 pitches were strikes.

Martinez said he can now put behind him the fear of how his arm would hold up.

"All that hard work, now I know it was worth it," he said.

Things didn't go particularly well for him in the beginning Thursday. It didn't help that the sun beat down relentlessly as the game began at about 11:30 a.m. and Martinez had just come off a strenuous hour of exercises and preparation.

He gave up a run each in the first and second innings, throwing a total of 39 pitches. Conversely, it took him just 28 pitches to complete his final three innings, and that was counting the extra out he gave the opposition in the fifth.

The game's first batter reached on an error by the shortstop, and two batters later scored an unearned run on a groundout. In the second inning, leadoff batter Valentin Ramos hit a triple into the right-field corner, and scored on a fly ball to center field.

"I wasn't really ready to make pitches at that time," Martinez said of the first two innings. "It was more like a warmup than a real game."

Still, he lasted 5 1/3 innings and said he could easily have pitched another inning, putting him around the six-inning mark that many pitchers consider a worthwhile standard.

"Doing it here and doing it in such a short period of time, that's encouraging for the next time out," he said of nearing the six-inning threshold.

Mets general manager Omar Minaya dropped into town for Martinez's start and came away feeling good about the 35-year-old's progress.

"It's encouraging to see where he is today," Minaya said. "I thought he looked a lot better once he got the feel of being out there again. He got better as he went along. He used his offspeed stuff, kept the ball down and his pitches showed late movement, which is Pedro. It was a very positive outing."

As Minaya watched Martinez pitch, he said he couldn't help but appreciate how hard Martinez has worked to get even to this point. And the GM believes it is now coming together for him and quietly is guessing that Martinez will pitch for the Mets before season's end.

Minaya said Martinez's pitches usually were in a range between 86 and 88 miles per hour, not exactly breathtaking velocity. But Minaya has seen Martinez win on a Major League level with that type of speed, and he remembers the words of Bobby Cox, the veteran Atlanta manager.

"Bobby said that when Pedro was with Boston, he beat the Braves with an 83-84 mph fastball," Minaya said. "So I don't doubt anything about Pedro."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.