Notes: Pedro cleared to begin throwing
Mets' ace still not expected to return to rotation before August
JUPITER, Fla. -- Consider it a minor development for the man and something more significant for Metkind. Pedro Martinez has been cleared to pick up a baseball and throw it. Nothing more, but even that left his manager pleased. "It's just encouraging to know he's got a ball in his hand," Willie Randolph said.
So after nearly five months of repair and after remorse, recovery and rehab, the return of the Mets' erstwhile No. 1 starter has reached a second stage -- from "God's hands," as Martinez said last week, to his right hand.
That hand is connected to the shoulder that was surgically repaired in October after a rotator cuff tear was detected. Dr. David Altchek, the Mets physician who performed the surgery, examined Martinez on Friday and approved the next step for the 35-year-old pitcher.
Throwing -- "light tossing, nothing major," according to Randolph -- is the next step and a natural progression for Martinez. It in no way changes the timing of his return to active duty -- still a piece of absolute uncertainty. General manager Omar Minaya maintained Friday the club anticipates Martinez's return no sooner than August, and that constitutes no change from what he said last week. Minaya said Martinez might begin a throwing program Saturday if his planned workout can he adjusted to accommodate light throwing.
Martinez remains months away from throwing off a mound.
Minaya also said Altchek had examined the surgically repaired right shoulder of reliever Duaner Sanchez as well and had characterized Sanchez's condition as "good." But Minaya indicated the club was being particularly cautious with Sanchez partially because his mechanics are out of whack and because he seems to be a tad timid about throwing.
It seems unlikely Sanchez will be on the Opening Day roster. Minaya didn't discount the chance, but he did distinguish between being able to pitch and being on the roster April 1 when the Mets play the Cardinals in St. Louis.
Trainer's room: Trainer's room: Lastings Milledge didn't make the trip to Jupiter. He thought he needed another day for his bruised right hand, which was struck by a pitch Wednesday by Zack Miner of the Tigers, to heal. Milledge and Jose Valentin (right ankle sprain) may play Saturday against the Dodgers
A lineup for the ages (or aged): The batting order Randolph created for the game against the Cardinals on Friday included none of the regulars, but did include some familiar names. The Nos. 3, 4 and 5 batters were Julio Franco, Ruben Sierra and Sandy Alomar Jr.
The average age of the three was 42.66 years. The average of their uniform numbers -- 23, 19 and 90 respectively -- was 43 years, 77 days.
"No one can say we're a bunch of rookies no one knows," Franco said.
It happens every spring: Although this one is a variation of the theme, Korean pitcher Chan Ho Park, already in the country and in camp, was prevented from making his scheduled start against the Cardinals on Friday because he had yet to receive his work visa and couldn't pitch in a game for which admission was charged.
The solution the Mets created had Park pitching in the morning in simulated game conditions in Port St. Lucie and Aaron Sele facing the Cardinals in Jupiter. Park pitched two innings and faced two extra batters to get his pitch count to 35. He walked a batter, struck out four, allowed two hits and a run.
The visa problem developed because Park signed shortly before spring camp opened and didn't have time to return to Korea to obtain a visa. He said the Mets initiated efforts to obtain one after he arrived in camp. The club expects to have the visa some time next week, preferably in time to allow Park to pitch Wednesday, on his scheduled fifth day, against the Red Sox.
Park is encouraged by the progress he has made thus far.
"I'm sure I'm going to have a good year," he said. "I feel strong. I'm more relaxed and confident. Let's go for it. I'm not saying I'm going to be Cy Young, but I'm going to be better than I've the last four or five years."
Randolph stayed behind to watch Park pitch and was intrigued by what he called "a unique curve" with more tilt than usual and an impressive changeup.
Newhan impressive against Redbirds: Sele pitched two innings and allowed one run in what became the Mets' 6-5 victory. David Newhan drove in the first two runs and tied the score in the Mets' three-run ninth inning with a bases-loaded single. A sacrifice fly by Carlos Gomez drove in Anderson Hernandez with the decisive run.
Newhan had two hits, one a triple, and three RBIs. Lino Urdaneta pitched the ninth, struck out two and earned the save.
Do as I do and do as I say: The student-teacher relationship takes many forms, including Ambiorix Burgos and Billy Wagner. Friday morning found the Mets' closer on a stool nearly face to face with Burgos, the hardest thrower in camp and a possible member of the Mets' season-opening setup processional.
"It was good, just good friendly help," Wagner said. "He does listen. That's good.
"He just needs a little tap on the rear. I told him to do all the drills at game speed. It doesn't matter if you throw 150 [mph], you've got to get used to game speed."
Signed up: Aaron Heilman, whose value to the Mets increased dramatically after Sanchez went down last summer, is the only Met to have his salary renewed this season, the second in two years and the second in nine years. Heilman, not yet eligible for arbitration, is to earn $453,000 for the 2007 season, an increase of $94,000.
Renewed is the term used when a club imposes a salary on a player.
Some of the raise can be attributed to an increase in the minimum salary -- from $327,000 last year to $380,000 this year.
Thirteen other Mets, including Milledge, John Maine and Pedro Feliciano, agreed to one-year contracts, leaving no unsigned players in camp. None of the 13 was eligible for arbitration.
The club renewed the salary of David Wright last year, putting his salary at $374,000, and then negotiated a six-year, $55 million contract with him in August. The chance of affording Heilman a multi-year deal appears remote at this point.
Coming up: The Mets play the Dodgers on Saturday at 1:10 p.m. ET, with Mike Pelfrey making his first start of the spring.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.