Pedro Martinez returned to baseball Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, more than 10 months away from the game and more than a year after his father, just days before he died, asked him to continue to play the game he loves.
Martinez allowed seven hits, three runs, one walk and struck out five in five innings in the 12-5 victory over the Cubs.
But Wednesday was much more than just a line score.
It was a fulfilled promise.
It was the anticipation of what else lies ahead.
"It was really fun to actually get back to the game," said Martinez, who went 5-6 with a 5.61 ERA with the Mets last season. "Last year was a horrible year. It was a very tough year for me. I promised my dad I would come back and play baseball like he asked me. Those were his last words. And making it back, it makes me feel like I took something off my shoulders. I got a win or whatever. It's very good, but to make it back when I promised my dad I would do it, it was probably my best gift. This one was for him."
Martinez's father, Pablo Jamie, died in July 2008 after battling a form of brain cancer.
"During the All-Star break, I had the opportunity to see my dad," Martinez said. "I didn't want to go, but my family asked me so many times. He wanted to see me. He was asking for me. And when I got there, I spoke to him. I asked him if he wanted me to stay. He said clearly, 'No.' I said, 'Do you want me to go play baseball?' He said, 'Yes.' And he died. That was our last conversation. I felt like something was missing and after that I never recouped. Mentally and physically, I wasn't there."
Martinez threw 99 pitches in five innings. He allowed one run through four innings before the Cubs got to him in the fifth. The Cubs got three hits and a walk to start the inning, but Martinez worked out of the jam.
"Hey, he was outstanding," Carlos Ruiz said. "For me, he still had the good stuff. His fastball and changeup were still good. It was good for him."
Martinez was not perfect, but he showed promise.
|"I've been there. For this club, what I'm lacking right now, I might give them at the end. Experience. A cold-blooded person that doesn't matter how big the game is. I'm going to stand right there. And if anybody fails, they can always count on the old goat to go out there and kind of stand up. I might do that. I might be able to do that if I'm healthy."|
|-- Pedro Martinez|
"He threw the ball OK," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "Look, he knows how to pitch, obviously. He threw the ball with a little more velocity than I thought he would and he gave them five innings. He got a lot of run support, so that made it a little easier for him."
The Phillies took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Shane Victorino hit a two-run home run in the third to make it 4-1, and the Phillies scored eight runs in the fourth to make it 12-1. Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez each hit three-run homers as the Phillies had a season-high eight hits in the inning.
Martinez seemed pleased that after just three rehab starts in the Minor Leagues -- two, if one considers his first rehab start with Class A Clearwater got rained out after just one inning -- he pitched effectively.
"This is my first game coming back," Martinez said. "If you look at me, I'm totally different. Attitude. Aggressiveness. Physically. I look better than the previous two years in New York. I just feel so healthy. I'm just coming back. I'm not 100 percent yet. And I still feel like I can compete with those guys. I hope I can do that for a little longer with a little more consistency."
The expectations for Martinez certainly are not what they once were. He was asked if he is OK with that, and if he still thinks he has enough in his arm to be the type of pitcher who could win a Cy Young Award.
"I've been there," he said. "For this club, what I'm lacking right now, I might give them at the end. Experience. A cold-blooded person that doesn't matter how big the game is. I'm going to stand right there. And if anybody fails, they can always count on the old goat to go out there and kind of stand up. I might do that. I might be able to do that if I'm healthy.
"I'm healthy. And I'm going to improve. Regardless of what happened today, I'm going to improve. I expect to improve, especially with being healthy."
Martinez, who said he feels totally healthy for the first time since 2001, said with a rotation that includes Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ, he can breathe a little bit.
That could help.
"But at the same time, I'm not going to quit," Martinez said. "I know the toughest games are yet to come. Come September and October, those are the games that I'm really setting my mind for."