Martinez expects fastball to return by midseason

1/12/2007 - MLB Pedro Martinez New York Mets + more

NIGUA, Dominican Republic -- New York Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez is so surprised with his right shoulder rehabilitation that he is almost certain that he will recover the powerful fastball that helped him win three Cy Young Awards.

"My arm is in such a good shape that I'm feeling optimistic," Martinez said. "I think I could have recovered the speed I had in the beginning of my career."

"The Mets doctors told me that my shoulder is completely clean and it wouldn't be weird if I throw faster than in the last two or three years, when the pain and tiredness affected my shoulder," said Martinez.

Martinez, 35, missed the end of the 2006 regular season and the postseason due to surgery on his right shoulder rotator cuff. For the season, he had a 9-8 record, with a 4.48 ERA (the worst of his career) in only 23 starts.

The Mets want Martinez to start throwing again in March and fully return to the rotation in July or August.

"I think I'll be ready sooner than that, but I will return only when I can play at my 100 percent. I won't force anything," he said.

Supported by a powerful fastball, that normally travelled at 94-97 miles per hour, Martinez won three Cy Young Awards between 1997 and 2000, when he was considered among the best pitchers in baseball.

A shoulder injury limited him to only 18 starts in 2001 and although he effectively return in 2002, his power steadily decreased year after year until he couldn't even reach 90 miles per hour in the last few seasons.

"My shoulder was dirty and hurt, but I can say now that is feeling like new again," said Martinez.

"We are happy for Pedro's great recovery," said Jeff Wilpon, senior executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Mets. "He is a great competitor and know how important he is for the Mets."

Martinez joined Wilpon, general manager Omar Minaya and other Mets players on Thursday on a tour of facilities in the Dominican Republic.

The Mets donated $25,000 to the International Hope Foundation, which supports several assistance programs in the Dominican Republic.