This season has been a challenge for Pedro Martinez, and he might be relieved to just be back on the mound at this point.
He's scheduled to make his first start since the death of his father as the New York Mets open a three-game set against the Houston Astros on Friday night.Martinez (3-2, 6.25 ERA) is back with the Mets (58-50) after spending a week in the Dominican Republic with his father, Paulino, who died at 79 on July 23 following a long battle with brain cancer."All the distractions were a little uncomfortable to deal with, but now I know he's at peace," said Martinez, who threw a bullpen session before Tuesday's 4-1 win at Florida. "It hasn't been easy, but it's time to work and put it all behind and start looking forward to the pitching."The three-time Cy Young Award winner has had a difficult 2008. A left hamstring injury forced him from his first start on April 1 after 3 1-3 innings, and he landed on the disabled list for two months. He exited his last outing on July 12 with tightness in his right shoulder after allowing one hit in four innings of a 3-0 win over Colorado.The right-hander will be limited to 80 pitches."Even though it's Pedro, and you optimistically feel good about him," Mets manager Jerry Manuel told the team's official Web site, "in reality you have to be somewhat apprehensive."Martinez is 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA in his last three starts against the Astros (50-57), and limited them to six hits in five shutout innings of a 4-1 win on Sept. 9.New York, which lost 7-5 to the Marlins on Wednesday, went 5-2 against Houston last year, splitting four games at Minute Maid Park.Fernando Tatis, who was out of the majors for three of the last four years, looks to continue his hot hitting for the Mets. He's batting .462 (12-for-26) two homers, six RBIs and six runs over the last seven games.He hasn't faced Houston since April 2003 when he was the starting third baseman for Montreal, and is one homer shy of 100 for his career.Brandon Backe (6-10, 4.73) will try to help Houston rebound from Wednesday's 9-5 loss at Cincinnati as he goes for his second win in seven starts. The right-hander is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 34 innings over his last six games.He didn't get much help from the bullpen on Saturday, yielding two runs and four hits in 5 1-3 innings before two relievers gave up two runs each in the final two innings of a 6-4 road loss to Milwaukee.Backe, who is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in five games -- three starts -- against the Mets, hopes Houston's acquisition of LaTroy Hawkins can help. The Astros got Hawkins from the New York Yankees on Wednesday for minor league infielder Matt Cusick.Hawkins was 1-1 with a 5.71 ERA in 33 appearances this season for the Yankees, who designated him for assignment on Saturday."LaTroy gives us another experienced, quality arm for our bullpen," Astros general manager Ed Wade said. "We tried to sign him during the offseason and lost out to the Yankees, but we are happy to have him here for the remainder of the season."