"I might surprise you," Martinez said. "I might not. But it's going to be fun. It's going to be really fun to go and find out."
It certainly should be interesting. The Phillies announced Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park they had signed the 37-year-old right-hander to a one-year contract worth $1 million, plus roughly $1.5 million in incentives. Everybody will learn soon enough if Martinez can pitch effectively in the Major Leagues, but he showed how entertaining the ride could be as he answered questions for more than 30 minutes in a lively news conference.
"I bring with me a legacy," Martinez said. "I bring with me my last name. I bring my face. I bring everything I have, my integrity, to this team. ... I'm not going to say anything. I'm just here to prove it. Talking doesn't win games. I want to get between the white lines and see what I can do."
The Phillies placed Martinez on the 15-day disabled list with what they called a mild strain in his right shoulder. The move is more procedural, because Martinez, who has not pitched competitively since the World Baseball Classic in March, is not ready to pitch in the Majors. He will join the Phillies this weekend in Florida for an evaluation before he begins his rehabilitation assignment in Clearwater, Fla. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Martinez could be pitching for the Phillies as early as July 30, when he is eligible to be activated for the opener of a four-game series against the Giants in San Francisco.
Philadelphia considers this a low-risk, high-reward move.
It is low risk because the Phillies have committed only $1 million to Martinez, which allows them to continue their pursuit of Blue Jays right-hander Roy Halladay. Amaro, while not addressing Halladay specifically, said the Phillies have flexibility to add salary this season. In other words, if the Phils do not acquire Halladay, it will not be because of his contract. It will be because of the prospects Toronto wants in return, and whether or not Philadelphia is willing to give them up.
It is high reward because the Phils believe Martinez still has something left in his right arm, which means the club would end the pitching carousel at the bottom of its rotation, which has included Rodrigo Lopez, Antonio Bastardo, Chan Ho Park and Andrew Carpenter. Lopez is scheduled to make his next start Monday against the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park, but Martinez is expected to take his place in the rotation.
|"As far as embracing the Phillies fans, I think I'm going to have a lot of fun, because they seem to be really wild. And I'm a little bit out there, too. I think we're going to match up really well."|
|-- Pedro Martinez|
"I just wasn't willing to sign a Minor League deal," Martinez said. "I wasn't willing to go to places that I didn't feel comfortable going. I didn't feel like going with some teams ... things like that, things that come into play when you're the kind of player that I am.
"I have already made a career. I don't have a need for anything material that you see out here. I just have the desire to play. I feel like I can play. I'm going to do it, and I'll be the first one to be convinced -- really convinced -- if I can do it or not. If I don't do it, I'm going to go home and take myself out of baseball. But I'm not going to let anybody, any comment, drag me out of baseball. I'm going to do it when I feel it's the right time. If my health fails, I will go. But none of you is going to drag me out."
Phillies assistant to the general manager Charley Kerfeld watched Martinez pitch in the Classic. Kerfeld watched Martinez pitch again last week at the team's baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. Kerfeld liked what he saw, so the Phillies asked Martinez to throw one more time to see how his arm responded. Phillies assistant general manager Benny Looper watched the second session, and he also liked what he saw.
Martinez's fastball ranged from 86 to 91 mph in the first session. It dropped a bit in the second, but Martinez hasn't thrown regularly since the Classic. The Phillies hope his rehab assignment in the Minors builds up his arm strength to allow him to throw more consistently.
"It hasn't been easy for me," Martinez said of his final two seasons with the Mets, which were marred by injuries. "I don't like to make excuses. I gave it up the last few years. I wasn't the same Pedro Martinez that you're accustomed to seeing. I was having surgery. I think I was too brave sometimes. I was stupid sometimes for pitching and knowing that I wasn't in the regular health that you should be in. The last few years have been horrible. I'm not saying horrible because of the results, but because I haven't felt like I wanted to feel.
"I don't expect to be the same Pedro that I was when I was 26. But I still feel like I can still bring something to the table. I still feel like this team needs a little help, very little help, and I think I can supply a little bit of it. I'm not going to say all of it, but a little bit of it."
Martinez could help the Phillies bury the Mets in late August, when the teams meet for a four-game series at Citi Field.
Martinez said he holds no ill will to the Mets. In fact, he said he very much loves the fans there.
Phillies fans might not like hearing that.
"Don't confuse that now," Martinez said of his love for Mets fans. "It could be my mom standing up with a bat, and if I have to back her up ... I'm a very competitive player. Once I step between the white lines, you see me smiling now, but you're not going to see that face when I'm on the field. As far as embracing the Phillies fans, I think I'm going to have a lot of fun, because they seem to be really wild. And I'm a little bit out there, too. I think we're going to match up really well. I'm looking forward to doing that, too.
"But I can't do anything with the hate you feel for the Mets or Mets fans. That's between you guys."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.