Pedro to face Astros' Oswalt in first start at Shea since surgery

NEW YORK -- Pedro Martinez clowned around with Mets closer Billy Wagner about his Texas Longhorns hat and offered some sunglasses to any of his teammates that would listen.

Expect a slightly different attitude Sunday when he makes takes the mound at Shea Stadium for the first time since he had major shoulder surgery in October.

"I'm more confident every time I take the ball, but I'm going to still have to be cautious,'' Martinez said Saturday. "I can't go crazy out there like I am when I'm not pitching.''

Martinez earned a win in his first start of the season, getting through five innings in 76 pitches to help the Mets beat the Reds 10-4 in Cincinnati on Monday. It was his first big league outing since he lasted just 2 2/3 innings in a loss at Atlanta on Sept. 27 last year.

He returned after just four rehabilitation appearances in the minors, leaving some questions about his readiness. The Mets decided to put him on a 75-pitch limit, and manager Willie Randolph said the right-hander will be closely monitored again in his second start against the Houston Astros.

"We'll go in pretty much in the same ballpark and just see how he feels,'' Randolph said. "You just never know how he's going to respond. He should be strong. He's feeling great.''

Martinez fanned four against Cincinnati to become the 15th player to pass 3,000 career strikeouts. The three-time Cy Young Award winner allowed two earned runs and five hits, and was encouraged by how he felt all week.

"I feel more confident because I bounced back, especially the
next day after the outing," the 35-year-old Martinez said before
the Mets beat Houston 3-1 Saturday for their seventh win in eight
games. "I bounced back good. I threw in the bullpen yesterday,
bounced back good."

He didn't exactly draw an easy assignment for his second game
back -- the Astros will send ace Roy Oswalt to the mound. Oswalt is 6-0 with a 1.78 ERA in his last seven starts.

After facing Houston, Martinez could get four more starts in during the regular season before NL East-leading New York has to decide what to do with him if it reaches the postseason.

Randolph is content to let the situation play itself out.

"We're hoping that he continues to progress and gets better and
better, and pitch the way he can pitch,'' he said. "We've had guys here all year who've been grinding and busting their butt and helping us win games. It just boils down to who are the best guys.''