Pedro still 'rusty' (at best)

Hey, Pedro Martinez won! It was genuinely thrilling to see him pitch again, and pitch reasonably well. But as Tim Marchman writes, we probably should curb our enthusiasm ...

    A sentimentalist might choose to believe that Martinez made fools of the skeptics in Chicago by pitching five reasonable innings that offered the promise of more; no one else should. After the game Martinez told a lovely story about how his return fulfilled a promise made to his father as he lay dying in the Dominican Republic last year. He called himself "the old goat." He spoke of what it was like to go from being called the best in the world to sitting on a bench not knowing when he'd be called on to start: "It's another experience for me," he said.

    At one point, according to Wrigley Field's radar, he reeled off pitches that came in between 91 and 93 over five of six pitches. With a dawdling slurve in the low 70s, a change that broke in under the knuckles of left-handed hitters in the high 70s, and a slider in the mid 80s, he has enough registers to keep hitters swinging early at slow pitches and late at faster ones, the key to his success for him now.

    Speed is just one aspect of pitching, though, and the one that Martinez has yet to show he controls is the ability to put the ball where he needs it. "I didn't feel quite as confident about my command," he said after mentioning how pleased he was with his velocity, and for good reason: Bringing the ball in from his new, slightly lower arm angle, he was visibly wild whenever getting much above the mid 80s.

As Marchman points out, Martinez's ERA -- after one start against a pretty lousy lineup -- is almost exactly the same as that of Jamie Moyer, whom Martinez has replaced in the rotation. As Marchman also points out, if Pedro's not able to put the ball almost exactly where he wants, he's going to get hit, and hit hard. Because he just doesn't have the arm strength or the movement that he once had.
It's early, of course. But I'm reminded that there's a hidden downside of signing a guy like Pedro Martinez or John Smoltz. Both were supposedly signed as sort of insurance policies, but eventually both were given jobs not because they were desperately needed, but instead because they were Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz.

You saw how well that worked out for the Red Sox.