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Queens Chronicle

SportsBeat—Mets Starting Pitching Soap Opera

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Posted: Thursday, July 13, 2006 12:00 am

You would allow that with a 12 game lead in the NL East that the Mets would have little to concern themselves with at the All Star break. If only that were the case.

The status of ace Pedro Martinez is the number one question mark as he has been nursing a sore hip for the last few weeks. With the kind of cushion the Mets have you would think that it would have been a no brainer for the team to make sure that he wouldn’t pitch until after the All Star festivities. That eventually turned out to be the case as he was put on the disabled list, but as recently as last Thursday, the Mets were still toying with the idea of letting Pedro pitch against the Marlins in last weekend’s series if he felt up to the task.

Mets General Manager Omar Minaya understandably defers to the desire of his ace pitcher and Minaya clearly did not want to ruffle his feathers if Martinez insisted on pitching one more outing before the mid July break. When I asked Minaya last Wednesday if he would tell Martinez that the organization would rather he not pitch since there is still a long second half of the season coming up, he nervously replied, “We could do that.”

Martinez’s absence combined with a four game series with the Marlins forced the Mets to improvise a starting staff in a hurry. The team was forced to recall washed up veteran Jose Lima for Friday night’s game. With Marlins ace Dontrelle Willis on the mound, Mets Manager Willie Randolph figured that there was no sense in wasting a good pitcher in a probable losing cause, therefore Lima got the ball. Randolph was hoping, however, that Lima could go a respectable six innings so that the bullpen wouldn’t be needlessly taxed. No such luck, as Lima gave up seven runs in three innings and the truth is that it easily could have been worse since nearly all of the outs were blistering long line drives.

Aaron Heilman has been publicly campaigning for a chance to start a game since spring training. His middle inning relief work has left a lot to be desired, yet the Mets keep insisting on him staying in the bullpen for sixth and seventh inning work. Last weekend would have been the ideal time to basically tell Heilman to put up or shut up and let him start, given the Mets’ need. Instead, the Mets called up highly touted pitching prospect Mike Pelfrey to make a guest starting appearance. Fortunately for Pelfrey and the Mets organization, the home team’s bats finally woke up as they scored 17 runs, a Shea Stadium record. You have to wonder though what would have happened to Pelfrey’s psyche had the Marlins roughed him up.

Yankees public relations director Rick Cerrone enjoyed a busman’s holiday as he took his wife and son to watch the Mets play the Pirates last Wednesday. George Steinbrenner does not have to worry whether Cerrone is a closet Mets fan. “I just wanted to go to a game where I can sit in the stands with the fans and enjoy it,” Cerrone said. He rightly added that sportswriters and baseball executives should all sit in the stands from time to time to stay connected with the public. It is amazing how many sports team owners never leave the executive suite to get a better pulse on what their customers are thinking.

The Mets’ NY Penn League team, the Brooklyn Cyclones, are having a rare matinee next Thursday in Keyspan Park as they take on the Oneonta Tigers at noon.

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