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Pedro shows up for Camp early, still without shoe

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Martínez Arrives and Waits for the Other Shoe to Drop


Published: February 15, 2006


PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla., Feb. 14 — In typical Pedro Martínez fashion, he was first heard, not seen, after arriving here Tuesday.


Martínez bounded out of a friend's Range Rover a little after 9:30 a.m., giggled and shouted some words in Spanish, then headed through a side door into the Mets' minor league clubhouse. When he emerged, gone were his trademark Jheri curls, replaced by an Afro in its early stages. He looked robust with an extra 11 pounds, a fuller face and the glow of a newlywed.


But Martínez's off-season makeover is not complete. He is still missing his specially designed Nike cleats that are intended to permanently alleviate the pressure from the inflamed big toe on his right foot. Martínez expected the shoes to beat him here, but they did not, and he was forced to work out Tuesday wearing a right shoe that had been altered by the assistant trainer Mike Herbst. A Nike spokesman said Tuesday that Martinez would definitely receive his shoes Wednesday.


It could take a few days before Martínez feels comfortable with his new shoes, but he has the altered right shoe available for exercise and to play catch.


Martínez said he would wait until his new shoes arrived before throwing long toss with maximum effort and, eventually, off a mound. He would not speculate on his chances of pitching for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, which begins in less than three weeks.


"I didn't want to push it without the right pair of shoes on my foot," he said. "I didn't want it to get worse."


Martínez said the pain had not increased, but had not diminished, either. And it probably will not get better until he approves the new shoes and is willing to change an aspect of his delivery, something that, he said Tuesday, he was not willing to do.


During his motion, which begins from the edge of the rubber, Martínez drags his right foot — his plant foot — along the dirt. The foot actually bounces a few times as he releases the pitch, setting off pain during his follow-through. The repetition has produced a case of acute tendinitis around the sesamoid bones, the two small bones beneath the big toe that are surrounded by tendons. Sesamoids function like tiny kneecaps and help muscles bend the big toe down.


"It's a relatively common injury, but it's especially troubling for a pitcher because it's his rear foot," Dr. Stephen Pribut, the president of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, said in a telephone interview. "As that foot bends, the pressure increases, and it can be very uncomfortable."


Questions were once raised over the Mets' giving Martínez a four-year free-agent deal because of concerns about his durability. But they revolved around a temperamental right shoulder, not a lingering foot injury. In 2004, when he was pitching for the Boston Red Sox, Martínez said he started feeling discomfort in his toe and often received cortisone shots. The pain returned last June, but it did not cost him any starts. He did not make his final two starts because the Mets were out of contention.


After the World Series, Martínez took some time off to let the toe heal, but in late November, the pain had not disappeared. He was re-evaluated by doctors, who advised the Mets and Martínez to inquire about a special shoe. The process involved Martínez having impressions taken of his foot near his Miami home, shipping them to Nike headquarters in Oregon and then to Taiwan, where the shoes are being manufactured.


Martínez, who said the molds were shipped to Nike last month, was displeased that he had not received the finished product yet.


"They're getting a lot of publicity that they don't deserve," he said.


Martinez's stopgap footwear has gauze tape wrapped around the front of the shoe and contains an insole and silicon gel pushed flush against the injured toe. "It will make a difference, I hope," Martínez said. "I'm just waiting for the real thing."




The Mets signed another player Tuesday who fits into the nothing-to-lose category. Jose Lima agreed to a minor league contract and is scheduled to arrive here Thursday, the deadline for pitchers and catchers to report. Lima, 33, who went 5-16 with a 6.99 earned run average in 32 starts for Kansas City last season, is a long shot to make the team.

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