Familiar Refrain: Mets Want Martinez To Stay Healthy





PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.—No one bats an eye upon seeing veteran Carlos Beltran on a running program as spring training opened. The 34-year-old is working his way back from knee surgery.

But seen running alongside Beltran this spring was 22-year-old Fernando Martinez, who claimed to feel great after leaving the Dominican League after one game in November with arthritis in his right knee.

This season Martinez is trying to finally give the Mets what they have waited years for—an injury-free season in which his potential finally begins to be realized.

Even at his young age, Martinez seems to have been around forever. Signed at 16 years old in 2005, he has played each season at a level where he has been among the youngest players. But his potential has been undermined by one injury after another, and he's never played in more than 90 games in a season.

"They told me for now I have a different program than everybody," Martinez said. "Me, Beltran, we do something different. They tell me to be careful, take it easy. But I feel, for now, very good."

Much like last season, the Mets intend to station him at Triple-A Buffalo for a full season, allowing him to grow and develop. Martinez, of course has his sights set on the big leagues.

"I think every day about it," he said. "I have in my mind I will be there, working hard for a starting job every day in New York. So right now I just keep working hard because we have new manager, a new general manager, a lot of people who are new faces. It's a new era."

But not too new. General manager Sandy Alderson tried to recruit Martinez for his former organization, the Padres, and manager Terry Collins was minor league field coordinator for the Mets last year.

"He has not lost his ability. It's still there," Collins said. "I watched his first game (in the Dominican League) and (then) got on a plane. When I got off the flight I had a message: 'He's hurt again.' I just shook my head. I feel terrible for him."

"It's not that you doubt the talent," assistant GM John Ricco said. "Angel Pagan was a similar case. Everybody knew he had the talent, but you start to say, 'OK, how long can we go?' At some point he's going to have to stay healthy."

METAMORPHOSES

• Like Martinez, righthander Jenrry Mejia is ticketed for Buffalo. He'll begin in the Bisons rotation but could be called up during the season, possibly in a bullpen role like last year.

• Rule 5 righty Pedro Beato, plucked from the Orioles, opened eyes early in camp by throwing high-90s heat.