Pedro Martinez says he is feeling good after making his long-awaited return from offseason shoulder surgery. The three-time Cy Young award winner will look for more progress Sunday, when he tries to help the New York Mets complete a three-game sweep of the struggling Houston Astros and their ace Roy Oswalt.
As Martinez (1-0, 3.60 ERA) makes his first start at Shea Stadium this season, he is expected to be on another strict 75-pitch limit in an effort to help him build the strength in his right shoulder, which underwent surgery on Oct. 5 to fix a torn rotator cuff."I'm more confident every time I take the ball, but I'm going to still have to be cautious," Martinez said. "I can't go crazy out there like I am when I'm not pitching."He did not appear to be bothered by the shoulder Monday, as he threw 76 pitches and allowed three runs -- two earned -- and five hits in five innings of a 10-4 win at Cincinnati. He also struck out four Reds to become the 15th player with 3,000 career strikeouts."I feel more confident because I bounced back, especially the next day after the outing," Martinez said Saturday. "I bounced back good. I threw in the bullpen yesterday, bounced back good."The NL East-leading Mets (80-61), who are 7-1 following a five-game losing streak, are looking to the 35-year-old right-hander to bolster their rotation as they close in on their second straight division title."We'll go in pretty much in the same ballpark and just see how he feels," Mets manager Willie Randolph said of Martinez's pitch count. "You just never know how he's going to respond. He should be strong. He's feeling great."We're hoping that he continues to progress and gets better and better, and pitch the way he can pitch. We've had guys here all year who've been grinding and busting their butt and helping us win games. It just boils down to who are the best guys."Martinez will follow an outstanding performance from Tom Glavine in Saturday's 3-1 win over Houston (62-80), as he carried a perfect game into the sixth inning before allowing one run and three hits in seven frames.Martinez is 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 17 innings over two starts -- both in 2005 -- against the Astros as a member of the Mets. Those outings included an outstanding complete-game effort at Shea on June 7, 2005, when he outpitched Oswalt and held Houston to one run and two hits with 12 strikeouts for a 3-1 victory.Oswalt allowed three runs and 12 hits in 6 2-3 innings of that contest. Since then, the right-hander has won all three of his starts against the Mets while compiling a 3.10 ERA.The three-time All-Star did not factor in the decision Monday, when he was tagged for five runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 9-7 win at Milwaukee -- Houston's only victory in the last seven games.Despite the difficult outing, Oswalt is 6-0 with a 1.79 ERA over his last eight starts.