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THE SAVIOR HAS ARRIVED

By John Kruk, ESPN Insider

Thursday is the day Mets fans have been waiting for since the end of last year. Why? Because Pedro Martinez is scheduled to pitch. I had the chance to see him several times during spring training, and while his velocity is down, he's still the same Pedro. His location is great, and he knows how to set up hitters as well as anyone in the game. Add in the fact that he's still an intimidating pitcher, despite not having a mid-to-high-90s fastball, and he's definitely a guy who'd be the staff ace on most teams.

The only thing that worries me about Martinez is his tender right big toe. After talking to several pitchers, I now realize how important having healthy feet are to a pitcher. Toe injuries can be devastating to a pitcher for two reasons. First, it can affect the mental part of the game and a pitcher's control because he's constantly thinking about the pain. Second, power pitchers rely heavily on their lower bodies to throw hard. Not having a fully healthy lower body means he'll have to throw more with his arm, and that could possibly lead to more arm injuries.

Hopefully, the new shoe that Martinez is wearing will be good enough to let him pitch without pain. If so, this Mets team will have a guy who should lead them to a lot of victories this season.

ELIAS SAYS

History is not on the side of Jimmy Rollins as he attempts to break Joe DiMaggio's record of hitting safely in 56 consecutive games. The Elias Sports Bureau tells why.

Complete Elias storyInsider

A DAY IN THE LIFE

By Peter Gammons, ESPN Insider | Gammons Archive

Barry Bonds may feel much of the world is against him, and he may be right, although most people who know him think it will only motivate him as he recoils into his I'm-Barry-Bonds-and-You're-Not cocoon. He has to understand that for people over 30, who really care about baseball records, he evokes a cyclone of emotions, many of them negative.

He is on "SportsCenter" every night. And while he may resent that, his reality television show only draws more attention to him, for better or for worse.

Bonds is going to take a lot worse than he did Monday in San Diego -- in Shea Stadium, in Oakland, in Chicago. Worse will happen than some guy anonymously throwing a syringe onto the dirt, and MLB will undoubtedly have security issues. But Monday, contrary to Rev. Jesse Jackson's diatribe, there was nothing any security force could do to prevent one plastic syringe being tossed out of the stands.

Complete Gammons blogInsider

PHILLIES SLEEPERS?

By Buster Olney, ESPN The Magazine | Olney Archive

Phillies general manager Pat Gillick was frank with his assessment of the team's pitching staff during the winter, suggesting that the team didn't have enough pitching to win. But last weekend, he traded one of his young pitchers, Robinson Tejeda, to the Rangers for outfielder David Dellucci. What he saw in spring training heartened him. "I do feel better about the pitching," he said yesterday, "and I feel better about the team."

The rotation came together better than Gillick expected. The Phillies shifted the lanky Ryan Madson from the bullpen to the rotation, partly because Gillick worried that Madson would eventually break down from racking up appearances out of the bullpen.

Complete Olney blogInsider

RUMOR CENTRAL
New York, New York?

Barry Zito Barry Zito, a free agent after this season, might consider playing in New York next year, Newsday reports. Former A's teammates Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon believe the left-hander would thrive in the Big Apple, and Zito agreed. "They know me," Zito told the newspaper. "I like big situations. I like pitching in the playoffs."

Zito's friends on the Yankees envision the Yankees and Mets being in the hunt for his services. "New York is New York for me. I haven't thought about which I like better," said Zito, who is making $7.98 million in the last season of a complicated four-year deal that will end up paying him $17.59 million. "I haven't given [free agency] much thought. Right now, it's Oakland. I'm worried about focusing on pitching well and getting us to the playoffs."

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