Report: Mets' Minaya says Pedro's return pushed back

Pedro Martinez reportedly won't be back anytime soon to wake up the lethargic-looking New York Mets.

General manager Omar Minaya told the New York Post for Tuesday's editions that the team doesn't expect the injured Martinez to return to the mound for the Mets until the middle of May or possibly June.

"We're definitely going to be more conservative with him," Minaya told the Post. "With hamstrings, you just never know. We've got to be careful."

Martinez suffered a left hamstring strain in his first start of the season. It was diagnosed as a mild hamstring strain and at the time, he was expected to miss four to six weeks.

Minaya told the Post that the Mets' doctors have ruled out Martinez's return before the six-week mark of his recovery.

The Mets are off to a 6-6 start and the team's power-starved offense hasn't been able to carry the load early.

Signed to a four-year contract in the 2004 offseason, Martinez has suffered through an injury-plagued Mets career. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has made just 60 starts with New York, compiling a 27-17 record.

For now, Nelson Figueroa is filling Martinez's spot in the rotation. The right-hander, who won his first start for the Mets last week, figures to stay in the rotation until Martinez returns.

Drafted by the Mets in 1995 out of Division III Brandeis University in Massachusetts, Figueroa (1-0) gives new meaning to the baseball phrase "journeyman." He traveled all over the world in the past year while trying to get back to the majors, pitching in Mexico, Taiwan and the Dominican Republic.

If Figueroa falters, the team likely will recall right-hander Claudio Vargas, who recently signed a minor league deal with the team after being released by the Milwaukee Brewers at the end of spring training.

Compounding the Mets' pitching problems, right-hander Orlando Hernandez is sidelined indefinitely with a strained tendon in his troublesome right foot. Twenty-four-year-old right-hander Mike Pelfrey has been occupying El Duque's spot in the rotation.

The Mets, however, got a much-needed boost for their bullpen on Tuesday when right-handed set-up man Duaner Sanchez was recalled from Triple-A New Orleans. Sanchez, who excelled in the eighth-inning role in 2006 before injuring his shoulder in a taxi accident in July of that year, did not pitch at all in 2007. He pitched the ninth for the Mets on Tuesday.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.