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Phillies-Rockies Preview

10/9/2009

DENVER (AP) -- Pedro Martinez is getting the ball and the call in another big game.

Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel chose the aging right-hander over J.A. Happ and Joe Blanton, who made cameo appearances out of the bullpen Thursday, to face the Colorado Rockies in Game 3 of their NL playoff series Saturday night -- weather permitting.

The best-of-five series is tied at one game each.

It will be Martinez's first postseason start since he won Game 3 for Boston at St. Louis in the 2004 World Series.

"Well, every game is really special, but this one makes me look really smart," Martinez cracked. "Because I chose this team after waiting a long time. I gave away opportunities to make a lot more money. ... But I waited for the right moment, the right team and I don't think I could have chosen a better team."

Hoping to draw interest in March, the 37-year-old free agent pitched for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic and surprised some with his increased velocity. But Martinez turned down several offers in the spring because he wanted to re-sign with the Mets.

They shunned him, however, after four injury-filled seasons in New York, where the effervescent Dominican won 32 games while playing out a $53 million contract.

So, Martinez sat out most of the season before signing with the Phillies late in the summer. He went 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA in nine starts.

Martinez is 6-2 with a 3.40 ERA in the postseason, and Manuel said he likes his history in cold weather, too. The forecast for Game 3 calls for temperatures dipping into the 20s with snow flurries.

"I don't really think about it," Martinez said. "I'm planning to go out and have fun and do whatever I have to do. I have never been in a situation where I have to pitch with the snow on the field or anything like that. But I'm just looking forward to the challenge."

Manuel burned two-fifths of his regular rotation Thursday when Blanton pitched one inning in relief, allowing a run in Colorado's 5-4 win, and Happ had to leave when Seth Smith hit a hard liner off the lower part of his left leg. X-rays were negative.

The Rockies seemed to welcome Martinez's selection because it allows them to use their most potent lineup with Ian Stewart at third base and Smith in left.

"Well, I think Seth Smith might have had something to do with that," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said of Martinez's selection.

Happ gave mixed reviews about how he was feeling Friday.

"I iced it four times on the flight. I felt pretty good. I ran some in the outfield and it didn't feel as good," he said.

Nevertheless, Happ said he should be available out of the bullpen for Game 3, but Manuel hinted that he'd rather save him for Sunday, when he might get the start. Then again, it could be Blanton or even Game 1 starter Cliff Lee on three days' rest.

Martinez has only thrown seven innings since Sept. 13 and he hasn't taken the mound since Sept. 30.

"That's another wonder," Martinez said when asked how he thinks 10 days' rest will affect him. "We don't really know. But I feel really good physically. I'm looking forward to going out there, hopefully get a normal start, use my experience to my advantage and try not to waste too much energy and too many pitches."

Martinez's age, minimal work the last few weeks and the frigid temperatures approaching Coors Field were thought to be determinants to him getting the nod.

Manuel didn't hesitate to pick him to start the team's most important game of the season, and he said he expects Martinez to throw between 85 and 100 pitches.

Jason Giambi has faced Martinez plenty of times, and he was busy doling out advice Friday to the young hitters in the Rockies' clubhouse who hadn't faced him before.

"Yeah, we're both old," Giambi said. "I faced him when he was in his heyday. There was nobody better in baseball at that time. ... But these young guys, I'm just going to tell them, 'He's going to make you work. He's a competitor. He loves to win.'

"So, it's going to be tough."

So will the weather.

Players wore extra layers and stocking caps to work out Friday, when the temperatures were still in the 50s ahead of an overnight cold front that will bring sleet, snow and plummeting temperatures.

"It's definitely not going to be a July day by any means," said Eric Thaler, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. "Bundle up like you're going to a Broncos game."

Thaler said it would be 29 degrees at first pitch at 7:37 p.m. MDT, and that the record cold temperature for Oct. 10 (25 degrees set back in 1905) could fall by game's end. He didn't expect much precipitation, which should encourage Major League Baseball not to postpone the game.

"Of course, it's usually real cold when we start out the season in Philly," Ryan Howard shrugged. "The thing is staying warm, keep your hands warm. Try to put the barrel of the bat on the ball. If you don't get it on the barrel, it really stings. I prefer warm weather. I think everybody prefers warm weather."

Winds will make batters' eyes watery but the biting cold will make it hard for pitchers to grip the ball.

Either way, Howard is glad Martinez will be on the mound.

"He wants to be that guy," Howard said. "That's the reason why he's got Cy Young awards and World Series championship rings. He likes to be in these situations."

Even in these conditions.