Notes: Sanchez has MRI on shoulder
Righty reliever felt something pop during Thursday's outing
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Reliever Duaner Sanchez was flown to New York on Friday as a "precautionary measure," the Mets said, to have an MRI on his surgical shoulder.
Sanchez felt something pop on his 11th pitch on Thursday in his first mound appearance since having surgery, and was promptly shut down. He was told by medics that the pop likely came from scar tissue from the surgery, but Sanchez also reported soreness, which he also perceived as normal.
When Sanchez's arm was still sore on Saturday morning, the Mets wanted to make sure it's nothing serious.
"We just want to slow him down for a little while," manager Willie Randolph said after the Mets' 2-1 loss to the Orioles on Saturday. Randolph added that he had not heard the results of Sanchez's MRI.
The Mets' decision to be cautious came a day after Pedro Martinez created a stir by telling a media assemblage that he thought Sanchez should have been given more time to heal before resuming pitching activities.
"I don't think he's gotten as much time, as much as he should," said the rehabbing Martinez, who added that he tried unsuccessfully to "seduce" Sanchez into joining him at the team's Minor League camp for intense workouts.
General manager Omar Minaya has said all along that the Mets trust their medical professionals to make accurate diagnoses.
Heilman saving 'bullets': Aaron Heilman, the anticipated eighth-inning reliever who expects to have to deal with tendinitis for much of the season, is feeling no need to test his balky elbow in back-to-back spring games.
Heilman's logic is simple: Why risk it? He has developed a procedure to cope with the problem and likes the way he is coming into the regular season. He figures any setback could cloud the season for him -- and the Mets.
"I'd rather save the bullets for when I need them," he said.
Don't misunderstand Heilman. He feels he will be able to pitch in consecutive games without a hitch, maybe even "three or four in a row," like last season. But he's in no hurry to put more stress on the elbow when it is not necessary.
"What I do in the spring isn't going to affect how often I pitch during the season," Heilman said. "It's something where I feel the arm strength is there and I'll be able to do it. You get a sense for how you will bounce back, and right now, I feel I can."
Still, Heilman understands that a Major League season is a marathon, not a sprint. He wants to be able to remain as much of a viable option in October as he figures to be in April.
Meanwhile, he is trying to be proactive with the elbow, which endured surgery for removal of bone chips in the offseason. He has begun doing regular strength exercises for the elbow, and, in the spring, doing more to warm up before he pitches.
It is beyond obvious with the travails of the bullpen this spring that the Mets need Heilman to remain reasonably healthy. With other candidates dropping like flies around him, he has become about the only quality option to set up closer Billy Wagner.
Guillermo Mota will miss the season's first 50 games after he was found to be taking a performance-enhancing substance, trade acquisition Ambiorix Burgos has been too erratic to trust and Sanchez clearly is not ready after having shoulder surgery last Aug. 1.
Heilman has often repeated his desire to start, which he did with distinction in college and during his first 4 1/2 seasons as a pro. But it is apparent now that he has suppressed that urge for the foreseeable future. What is not so apparent is how he will be able to cope through another tendinitis-dotted season, especially if his workload increases.
Pedro update: Martinez, recovering from Oct. 5 surgery for a rotator cuff tear, threw out a possibility on Friday, however vague, that an anticipated August return could be accelerated.
"It all depends when you get to a mound, get to that extent where you can really tell how my condition is," he said, adding that physically he is fit enough already "to do everything anybody else can."
Martinez said his workouts on Monday and Friday usually last 4 1/2 hours, with only 30 seconds of rest between exercises.
"That is agonizing sometimes, really hard to do," he said. "My stamina is really picking up."
Odds and ends: First baseman Carlos Delgado is now a father. His wife, Betzaida Garcia, gave birth to a boy, Carlos Antonio, on Friday night in Puerto Rico. It is not known when Delgado will return, but the Mets are naturally relieved that the birth, expected on April 1's Opening Day, doesn't figure now to impact his regular-season availability. Randolph said that whenever Delgado decides to return, "he will be welcome." ... After 13 years as a starter, Chan Ho Park found himself on Saturday being asked to become a reliever. He pitched three perfect innings against Baltimore, needing just 27 pitches, then was told to be ready to pitch on Monday. Randolph hopes to use him three times next week to see whether he can be used there. Park is not crazy about pitching in relief, especially if the Mets have no plans to let him return to starting. ... Lefty Pedro Feliciano had his scoreless streak stopped at 10 innings when Jon Knott, a Baltimore Minor Leaguer, homered off him on Saturday.
Up next: Young right-hander Mike Pelfrey (1.29 ERA in 14 spring innings) presumably can secure a spot in the rotation with a solid performance in Sunday's 1:10 p.m. ET game against the Astros in Port St. Lucie. Closer Billy Wagner also is expected to pitch in the game at Tradition Field. Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez will start for Houston.
Charlie Nobles is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.