Inside Pitch: Pedro returns to rotation

Pedro Martinez will be activated from the disabled list Friday to start at Pittsburgh, and he may have an opportunity to give the Mets their first NL East title since 1988.

It's old hat for Martinez.

"I've done it so often," he said. "To me, it's a job. It's a responsibility I have, and I'll do it with passion and respect. I don't think I want it any more than I did when I was with the Red Sox."

Manager Willie Randolph hopes to get three or four starts from Martinez to build him up for the playoffs. He said the three-time Cy Young Award winner wouldn't be on a strict pitch count but probably would not go more than five innings.

Martinez has been out since Aug. 15 with a strained right calf.

"It is better," Martinez said of his calf. "I won't know if it is 100 percent until I run the bases or get in the game."


  • C Ramon Castro, sidelined due to a strained left ribcage muscle and arthroscopic knee surgery, is hitting, and there's a rough timetable for him to play in Instructional League rehab games next week. The Mets still hope they will be able to activate Castro for the playoffs.

  • When Philadelphia swept a doubleheader at Atlanta on Wednesday, it took away the opportunity for the Mets to clinch their first NL East title on Thursday's off day. Said All-Star 3B David Wright: "In a perfect world you want to win it on the field. You want to pile on each other and throw high-fives. Philadelphia is a good team. We expected them to win. We'll just have to do it in Pittsburgh."

  • After the Mets officially clinch, manager Willie Randolph is expected to tweak his rotation to set up the order for the playoffs. He said if RHP Pedro Martinez were healthy, Martinez would be the Game 1 starter, which would make LHP Tom Glavine the Game 2 starter. RHP Orlando Hernandez is expected to start Game 3. There has been media speculation RHP John Maine could replace veteran RHP Steve Trachsel in the rotation, but Randolph has given no such indication.

  • OF Lastings Milledge is hoping to stick on the playoff roster, and his chances figure to be enhanced as long as LF Cliff Floyd is bothered by a sore left Achilles tendon. "Everybody wants to be on the postseason roster," Milledge said.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- Mets hitters with 100 or more RBIs: Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and David Wright.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're playing the way we need to play in the postseason." -- LHP Tom Glavine, on the Mets not losing focus, despite their double-digit lead in the National League East.

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