Olympic starter Knight called up to replace Pedro
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 rest.
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 Philadelphia.
"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.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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