Olympic starter Knight called up to replace Pedro

7/25/2008 - New York Mets

NEW YORK -- About 14 months ago, Brandon Knight was ready to
retire from baseball.

Now, he has a spot on the U.S. Olympic team and he's scheduled
to make his first major league start for the New York Mets in the
middle of a pennant race.

"Over the last couple years it has definitely been a roller
coaster," said Knight, slated to pitch in Pedro Martinez's place
Saturday night against St. Louis. "It's amazing how this game is,
how life is. How much it can just change -- like that."

The Mets put Martinez on the bereavement list Friday and
purchased Knight's contract from Triple-A New Orleans, where the
32-year-old right-hander was 5-1 with a 1.60 ERA in 11 games.

Martinez traveled home to the Dominican Republic following his
father's death Wednesday. He must stay on the bereavement list for
a minimum of three days and a maximum of seven.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner had been scheduled to pitch
Friday night's series opener against the Cardinals, so Mike Pelfrey
was pushed up a day to start instead on his regular four days of

That opened up a spot on Saturday, and the Mets' staff insisted
Knight was the best choice.

New York isn't sure when Martinez will be able to return to the
rotation. He hasn't pitched since leaving his July 12 start with
soreness in his shoulder and tightness in his groin, so he likely
will need at least a simulated game or something similar whenever
he rejoins the team.

That means Knight could get more than one start with New York,
putting his trip to the Beijing Games from Aug. 8-24 in question.
It's up to the Mets whether they want to free up Knight to pitch
for Team USA.

"You can't lose either way. It's a great predicament to be
in," Knight said.

The Mets began the day with a one-game lead in the NL East over

"If he performs well and we like what we see," manager Jerry
Manuel said, "he might be a guy that we consider keeping in some
form or fashion.

"I would think Major League Baseball at this point takes
precedence over the Olympics," he added. "Some great choices he's
got, though."

Indeed, Knight has come a long way.

In May 2007, he thought he had a job lined up to pitch in
Mexico, but that fell through. So he was all set to hang up his
spikes and focus on coaching college kids back home in California.

Then, an ex-teammate from his days with the New York Yankees
called and asked Knight if he wanted to pitch for the Somerset
Patriots in the independent Atlantic League.

He'd make about $2,300 a month.

Not enough to pay the bills, Knight thought. After all, he had a
mortgage and two young kids.

Go ahead and give it a shot, his wife, Brooke, told him. We can
live off our savings for a while. And you'll be mad at yourself if
you don't.

That former teammate, Brett Jodie, was the pitching coach for
Somerset and he helped fix Knight's mechanics, dropping his arm
angle a bit.

Knight pitched the rest of the season for Somerset and returned
to the Patriots this year before signing a minor league contract
with the Mets on May 27 and heading to New Orleans.

In his most recent start for the Zephyrs on Sunday, he tied a
team record with 12 strikeouts - in six innings.

"I'm pitching. Before, I was a lot more of a thrower," said
Knight, now in his 14th season of pro ball.

Knight pitched for the Yankees in 2001 and 2002. He made 11
appearances, all in relief.