2005-05-06 / Sports

PEDRO: A Star, A Champion…. And Modest Too

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

By Joe McDonald
Sports Columnist

FLUSHING, NY – Great pitchers can pitch anywhere. Whether it’s in a pitcher’s park, like Shea Stadium, a bandbox, like Fenway Park or a little league field, they will get batters out.

Pedro Martinez is no exception.

“I pitch the same way everywhere,” Martinez said before last Tuesday’s Met’s game against Philadelphia. “And pitch the way I learned to pitch. If I feel that I need to throw three hooks to the pitcher, like I did to [John] Smoltz, I would do it. Whatever comes to me at the time.”

That’s Pedro for you.

Martinez’s style of pitching helped him lead the Boston Red Sox last year to their first World Championship in ’86 years. Even with the bitter divorce from Boston the last winter, Pedro still would never trade it in.

“That championship is irreplaceable,” Martinez said. “To win it for that city and that team that I was apart of for so many years is the thing that really excites me. Not the ring.”

The Mets’ ace finally received his championship ring this past week when Sox owner Tom Werner stopped by Shea to deliver jewelry to Martinez and Doug Mientkiewicz. Even though the first baseman said he knew about the owner’s arrival, Pedro was surprised.

“I want to thank the Red Sox organization to actually coming here and giving it to me in person. It was important,” Martinez said. “Even if I didn’t get the ring, I would always get those memories.”

But his time in Boston is in the past and now Martinez is towing the rubber at Shea. He is 3-1 with a 2.51 ERA and leads the league with 52 strikeouts in 43 innings pitched. Moving to New York has seemed to revitalize the future Hall of Famer and brought a new attitude to the Mets.

“We’re trying to make it fun,” Martinez said. “Every time I see Cliff [Floyd], I do something I get his attention. When he fell down [making a circus catch in Martinez’s last start], I was making fun of him.”

And that attitude not only has endeared Pedro to his teammates, but also made him a fan favorite and the baseball draw in New York. Martinez’s first start at Shea was a sell out and his subsequent starts hat home, brought in a large walk-up crowd. It doesn’t faze Pedro a bit, since he was used to the Boston pressure cooker. If fact, he may just relish is.

“Every time I am given the ball, I feel that I have the opportunity to do something different,” he said. “Individually, I don’t feel that I have to prove anything to anyone. I still want to win a championship, I feel that I’m a winner and I want to be a winner at everything.”

Pedro is also thankful that winning ball players surrounds him. The Mets other major acquisition, Carlos Beltran has come up with many key hits during Pedro’s starts.

“Carlos has been amazing everyday,” Pedro said of his teammate. “If you see him one day, you would probably be impressed, but for us it’s a daily treat. We get that every day; he’s our daily special.”

That’s not to say Pedro is chopped liver either.

“No not really, I’m not that tall, I’m not that fast and I’m not that gifted,” Martinez quipped. “I will just try and stay healthy and give it a try.”

Oh, he’s modest too.

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