All three of Pedro Martinez's starts have resulted in wins for the NL East-leading Philadelphia Phillies, but they're still monitoring the 37-year-old to determine if he can contribute in October.
Martinez may get his stiffest test yet Friday night when he takes the mound in the opener of a three-game home set against the Atlanta Braves.Martinez (2-0, 5.14 ERA) signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Phillies (73-52) on July 15 after waiting for an offer from any club following four seasons with the New York Mets, who opted against re-signing the aging three-time Cy Young Award winner.The right-hander, who pitched for the Dominican Republic in March's World Baseball Classic to audition for a contract, has been shaking off some rust while getting 23 total runs of support in three starts with Philadelphia.He got the better of his former club Sunday, allowing four runs and two homers in six innings of a 9-7 win in his first start in New York since pitching for the Mets last year.That was Martinez's longest outing of the three thus far, but each start has come against teams that appear to be well out of playoff contention. The Phillies, who are coming off Thursday's 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh, would like to see more from him if he's going to be a member of their playoff rotation."I think we'll get a real good read on him a couple of more starts," manager Charlie Manuel said. "That's when he'll get stretched out. He's close to getting stretched out far enough now, but I think the next two starts (will tell) where we can take him in a game -- or where he can take us."I think that's six to seven innings. I think he can get up and stay strong for enough pitches to throw six to seven innings. It's a matter of getting him where he seems strong."Manuel might get a good indicator of the eight-time All-Star's progress in his next two starts, which are against opponents in the thick of the wild-card race. After facing the Braves (67-60), Martinez is scheduled to match up against San Francisco next week.Philadelphia has dropped eight of 12 in the season series with the Braves.Martinez is 0-2 with an 8.62 ERA in his last three starts against Atlanta, which will counter with rookie phenom Tommy Hanson (9-2, 3.12) as he looks to celebrate his 23rd birthday with a fifth consecutive victory.The right-hander has won his last four outings with a 2.81 ERA and 28 strikeouts over 25 2/3 innings, helping the Braves pull within 4 1/2 games of wild card-leading Colorado.Hanson, who will get his first start against Philadelphia, was impressive again Saturday, allowing three runs while fanning seven in seven innings of a 4-3 win over Florida."Hopefully, he'll be Rookie of the Year," manager Bobby Cox said. "He pitched a great ballgame, especially the first four innings. Man! He hardly ever missed."The Braves rolled past last-place San Diego 9-1 on Thursday to avoid a three-game sweep."This was as close to a must-win game as you can have at the end of August," said third baseman Chipper Jones, who went 2 for 3 and walked twice. "If we lose this game, we'd be looking back at the end of the season and saying this was the series that really killed our momentum."