Lindstrom comes out firing

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Pedro Martinez finally threw off a mound on Tuesday; that was big news. But in an unheralded session on the back fields of the Mets' complex, Matt Lindstrom was also ready to get back in action.

Lindstrom, 26, was cleared to climb a hill for the first time this year, making his way back after suffering a stress fracture in the humerus bone of his pitching arm last season.

And while Pedro continues to fiddle with his modified Nike cleat, looking for the perfect combination that could get him on the mound at Shea Stadium for Opening Day, Lindstrom is pleased to report that all systems are go.

"I feel the best I've ever felt in my professional career," Lindstrom said. "I'm just pumped about getting going."

The starter-turned-reliever pitched with pain for most of the 2005 campaign, accounting for a lack of command that saw him walk a career high 55 batters in 73.1 innings. As a starter, Lindstrom's numbers were especially poor (0-4, 8.18 ERA), but he appeared to find a niche as a reliever, going 2-1 with a 3.12 ERA in 25 appearances.

"It was a learning experience, for sure," Lindstrom said. "I fell behind a lot of hitters, and I'd have to throw a strike so I'd slow everything down. Every count I was in seemed like a hitters count."

A hard-throwing prospect who has cracked 100 MPH on several occasions, Lindstrom appeared in the Arizona Fall League last year with the Grand Canyon Rafters, but he couldn't shake the pain in his throwing arm. Lindstrom ached and ached, to the point where he could barely remember the last time he pitched without pain (for the record, he first felt affected during last spring).

"It hurt so bad, it just wouldn't recover," Lindstrom said. "Even two days after I threw, it still hurt like crazy."

Sent to New York, a bone scan revealed what Lindstrom called "a big ol' white crack," with doctors prescribing a full three months without throwing. That timespan passed, and Lindstrom - who is sharing a throwing program with Philip Humber, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery - sounds like he's ready to return to action in the bullpen.

"I'm optimistic," Lindstrom said. "I've been throwing for a little more than a month now. The way it feels when I'm throwing, it's just like, 'Oh my gosh.'"

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