An All Too Familiar Sign For the Mets

February 7, 2009

“I felt my elbow tighten up,” Mets 20 year-old prospect Fernando Martinez said. “It was a little swollen. It’s better. I feel I can play again. I don’t think I need to fly to New York to get a check up but the Mets want me to.”

The decision to fly Fernando Martinez to New York, at first, was a precautionary measure stemming from previous reports that anti-inflammatory medicine Martinez was taking for his sore right elbow wasn’t quite doing the trick. From a young player’s perspective, it may seem premature to assume that some early season growing pains could amount to anything worse. Martinez hit a two-run pinch-hit homer in the top of the seventh inning, on Tuesday, to push the Tigres de Licey past Puerto Rico’s Leones de Ponce, 2-1, in the Caribbean Series. Unfortunately for the Mets, their medical staff was spot-on as the latest news regarding Martinez is that he will be sidelined for three weeks with a right elbow strain.

Martinez is considered the organization’s most coveted prospect. With respect to the Mets last two major off-season trades in which they acquired lefty Johan Santana and righty reliever J.J. Putz, the parties involved met with some prior opposition because of their refusal to give up their interest in the young right handed hitter. In Martinez’ previous two seasons, he has managed to stave off re-location but not injury. In 2007, he missed the final three months with an injured hand. In May and June of last season, he was unable to perform for six weeks with a strained right hamstring. With so much attention being given to Martinez, it’s obvious that the Mets have him in their plans for this up-coming season. With the reluctance to sign a high-profile right handed bat to balance out their lineup, the 20 year-old was sure to be next in line for the job.

The Mets have a history of relying on players who eventually don’t live up to their expectations. Former Mets outfield Alex Ochoa was considered a five-tool player before he was shipped out to Baltimore in a trade. Some experts have stated that Jay Payton was damaged goods by the time the Mets reaped his rewards. Most recently, former Mets outfielders who have followed suit are Preston Wilson and Lastings Milledge.

As we near the start of training camp, the fate of Martinez is just one of many concerns for the Mets that need addressing. Most notably, there are rumblings that the team should bring in another left handed reliever to join Pedro Feliciano who is currently their only lefty in the bullpen.

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