2006 NEWS

2006 News > 3/22/06


By Marty Noble, MLB.com
Original Article HERE

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Years tend to dilute whatever prestige is attached to being the starting pitcher on Opening Day.

The assignment has some "be careful what you wish for" qualities, because of all the pomp and probable delays of the day. Former Mets manager Davey Johnson once said he would have had Dwight Gooden make his big-league debut on Opening Day 1984 if not for all the ceremonies and uncertainty.

So it was Wednesday that when Pedro Martinez finally did what had been expected for weeks -- excuse himself from what would have been his ninth Opening Day assignment and left all of it, the good, the bad, the potential for distraction and inclemency, for Tom Glavine -- he also apologized.

"I owe you one," Martinez said to the teammate two lockers to his right.

"Yes, you do," Glavine said.

Glavine has made six Opening Day starts, including 2003 and '04 with the Mets. He knows about the double-edged sword. He called it "cool" and described it as "a pain in the neck." He said, "It's neat for all those reasons," but said, "In the end, it's just one game, and you want to get it over with."

But at least now he knows when he pitches, and he can adjust accordingly.

"The sooner you know, the more you can focus," Glavine said.

Martinez said the decision that Glavine would start wasn't his, not that anyone had said it was -- not in so many words.

"Everybody here is capable, and I trust anybody to do it," Martinez said. "Especially that old goat that's beside my locker."

"'Preciate it, Pete," Glavine said in response with a smile and less than absolute sincerity.

With one pseudo-mystery solved, the next unknown is the date of Martinez's 2006 debut. He is certain it will fall during the Mets' first homestand -- six games against the Nationals and Marlins -- and almost certain it will happen before Glavine makes his second start. Martinez's second Spring Training start probably will be March 31, which would put him on schedule to start April 5 against the Nationals.

Reporters told Glavine of Martinez's abdication after Martinez had explained his reasons to them. The club had made no announcement to that point. Martinez had explained his situation, saying he couldn't start Opening Day "unless I can really work some magic.

"But I don't think I'll have enough time," Martinez continued. "I need at least two outings. You're not going to throw me three innings in a game and then straight to Opening Day. I don't think it's fair to either me, my teammates or anybody."

All of this was settled -- it seemed -- after Martinez had yet another on-the-mound, no-batters, side-session workout. He emerged from it saying he felt better, stronger and all that. Then he finally acknowledged that pitching Sunday -- probably for only three innings -- and one time thereafter wouldn't provide enough preparation for an April 3 start.

Martinez's preparation for the season has been delayed from the beginning of camp because of his chronic right big toe problem.