Is Martinez Ready to Make his Return?

By Chris Burrows

The Phillies announced Wednesday that 3 time Cy Young Award winner and crestfallen Met Pedro Martinez would make his return (following a stint on the DL to kick things off) to the Major Leagues as a part of their starting rotation. Is the embattled RHP ready for a return to fantasy rosters?

His career digits are staggering: a strikeout to walk ratio of 3,117 to 701 which makes him one of a select few to have over 3,000 K’s and under 1,000 walks, 214 career wins, and a minuscule career ERA of 2.51. But the 8 time All-Star went unsigned to kick-off 2009 when his contract with the Mets ran out—and for good reason.

Martinez missed most of the 2007 season on the DL but finished surprisingly strong—he had 5 starts with 28 IP and went 3-1 with a 2.57 ERA—and followed up that performance with a short season in 2008 spent mostly on the DL. What he didn’t spend on the DL he probably should have. He took home his first losing season of 5-6 that year and an ERA over 5 for the first time in his career.

With Favre-like commitment, however, Martinez made his impression with scouts as the a starter for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic—he managed to make quick work of six scoreless innings and even struck out six. Scouts from Philadelphia had Martinez pitch in two games against the Phillies Dominican Summer League Team, brought him to Philly for a physical, and settled on a $1 million contract for the rest of the 2009 season.

But already Martinez is on the DL—no change there. The reports of his debut coming as early as July 30th are reportedly overly-optimistic—a shoulder strain in the throwing arm is no small grievance. We can’t even be sure if that’s what the problem is since the details surrounding the physical are very vague and a start in the minors will have to happen as well.

His work for the Dominican national team doesn’t provide much clue as to his current status since his team played only two games and lost its bid in the first round of play, but Martinez was as successful as he could have been with his hurls hitting their spots again. He issued no walks in either game.

At the end of his run in New York there was much concern over Martinez’s loss of control and diminishing velocity that was most evident in his inflated ERA. It’s clear that he’s past his prime—especially considering he’s 37 years old—but he’s a name to fear on the mound that refuses to give batters that inside corner. It’s all conjecture at this point—all we really have to go off of was what he did last in 2008 which isn’t much at all. It’s possible that his 2008 return from surgery came too soon and the legendary thrower didn’t have the chance to properly heal. We won’t know until he (ever) takes the mound in Philly.

He may have been the cheapest 3-time Cy Young winner on the market but if he’s back in shape soon and can be found at the right price Pedro Martinez might be a fortuitous contributor to a fantasy roster. In the words of Martinez himself, “I might surprise you.”