Pedro 'excited' about starting Game 3
Manuel hints Happ will get Game 4 nod at Coors Field
DENVER - This is the moment Pedro Martinez had pictured in August.
This is a big reason why he came back.
The self-proclaimed old goat gets the opportunity to stand up and show the world he still has life in his right arm and can rise to the occasion Sunday at 10:07 p.m. ET on TBS and Postseason.TV, when he will start Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Rockies at Coors Field.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said right-hander Joe Blanton, who had been an option to start Game 3, would remain in the bullpen. Manuel also hinted that left-hander J.A. Happ would be his Game 4 starter. Happ suffered a bruised left leg Thursday in Game 2, but is fine.
Manuel chose Martinez over Blanton partially because he feels he needs Blanton in the back of a thin bullpen. Blanton also threw 19 pitches to five batters in Game 2. Pitching Martinez, who is well rested, on Sunday also gives Happ an extra day to heal and prepare for Game 4, if he gets the call.
- 2009 Regular Season
- Overall: 9 GS, 5-1, 3.63 ERA, 8 BB, 37 K
- Overall: 34 G (30 GS), 10-8, 4.33 ERA, 42 BB, 133K
- Key stat: 4 IP since 9/19
- Key stat: 2.1 BB/9 IP
- Career: 13 G (11 GS), 6-2, 3.40
- Career: NR
Career: 16 G (15 GS), 3-3, 5.73 ERA
- Against this opponent
- 2009: NR Career: 10 G (8 GS), 2-3, 4.31
- 2009: 2 G (1 GS), 1-0, 4.82
Career: 2 G (1 GS), 1-0, 4.82
- Loves to face.: Jason Giambi, 8-50, HR, 5 RBI, 19 K
Hates to face: Brad Hawpe, 2-4, HR
- Loves to face: Ryan Howard, 0-4, K
Hates to face: Raul Ibanez, 4-8, 2B, HR, RBI
- Game breakdown
- Why he'll win: Career 2.84 ERA in Division Series.
- Why he'll win: 2 L since start of August
- Pitcher beware: First postseason start since '04
- Pitcher beware: 5.73 ERA at home in '09
- Bottom line: He's been here before -- many times.
- Bottom line: He won't beat himself.
The best-of-five series is tied at 1.
"Every game is really special," Martinez said after a team workout Friday. "But this one makes me look really smart because I chose this team after waiting a long time. And I decided to wait, really wait. I waited for the right moment, the right time, and I don't think I could have chosen a better team than this one to actually get my opportunity to pitch in the postseason. And I'm really excited. It might sound a little weird that I'm excited, but I am, just to have the opportunity to be here right now."
Martinez, 37, went 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA in nine starts for the Phillies. He pitched better than expected, considering the Phils had no expectations when they put him in the rotation. Martinez had not pitched since last season with the Mets, where he went 5-6 with a 5.61 ERA. But Martinez had said he was healthier than he had been in years.
He showed it at times, and Manuel said that is why he feels confident Martinez can do the job.
But that does not mean Martinez is without obstacles. He has to beat a Rockies lineup that is loaded with left-handed hitters. He has to beat the weather -- first-pitch temperatures could be in the high 20s with a chance for snow -- and fight the fact that he has thrown just four innings since Sept. 19.
A good lineup, frigid temperatures and rust.
It could be a problem.
"He has pitched in cold weather," Manuel said. "I feel like Pedro is capable of going anywhere from 85 to 100 pitches. And I think that can get you into the sixth of seventh inning if his command is good. Of course, if he has a couple innings where he does throw a lot of pitches, that will determine how far he goes in the game. But Pedro is in very good shape, a lot better shape than last year. He's throwing quite a bit better."
Martinez, who is 6-2 with a 3.40 ERA in 13 career postseason appearances, has been throwing in the bullpen and on the field in between starts. He has been trying to keep a feel for the ball.
"It's hard because it doesn't matter how much you throw in the bullpen, how much you practice," he said. "The intensity of the game and the quality that those hitters put up against you is totally different. But I have been trying to stay sharp. I would have loved to have pitched a little bit in between, but that's not the case right now. I just have to go and do whatever I can with the time I have."
But this is a big moment for Martinez, who has not pitched in the postseason since Game 3 of the 2004 World Series, when he threw seven shutout innings for the Red Sox against the Cardinals. He must pitch well or the Phillies could face elimination Monday in Game 4.
"I'm not known to be intimidated by the challenge," Martinez said. "And hopefully after getting older I don't feel anything different. I'm expecting to just go out there and have success like always. I don't know how big you want to make the stage, but to me it's a baseball game."
It is just a game, but it is another opportunity -- perhaps one of the last opportunities -- for Martinez to show why he was arguably the best pitcher of his era.
"What I have to offer," he said, asked about giving advice to his teammates before Game 3, "I wish they could take it all because I'm not going to be around very long anymore."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.