"I can breathe. It's like a big glass of cold water when you're thirsty. That's how bad we wanted Johan. I'm glad he's on our side. He's somebody who, now, everybody can rely on. Actually, he's somebody I'll love to be around. He's a great person. I'm really proud to have him here. I can't wait to give him a big hug and say, 'Hey, we're together now.' One from the left side, the other from the right side."-Pedro Martinez
The fanfare surrounding the unofficial opening of training camp yesterday in Port St. Lucie naturally focused on a pair of pitchers, both primed and ready to return the Mets to prominence as the dominant team in the National League.
It's an enviable position to be in right now, especially with Johan Santana showing up, tossing a ball for a little while, but basically letting his actions do the talking. What's there for him to say? He's not here to say much. He's here to perform. The talking can certainly be left to another pitcher, occupying a locker two stalls to the right of Santana's. A pitcher with a sterling track record of his own, and a reputation as an irreverent and loquacious individual.
Pedro sounded off on several issues. He's glad Santana is here with him. Who wouldn't be? Where Pedro silently feuded with Curt Schilling as the dueling aces in Boston brought home a Championship in 2004, there appears to be no animosity between these two who will anchor the top of the Mets rotation. Pedro knows. He's not the pitcher he was in 2003, and with Santana now here to supplant him as the #1 guy, Pedro can now focus on just being Pedro. He knows his role on the ballclub has been solidified, and with Santana ahead of him to eat innings and, hopefully, save the bullpen, Pedro can relax, knowing that his 6 inning efforts may indeed be sufficient enough to earn a victory.
Pedro sounded off on a number of different things yesterday, not just on Santana. With the Steroid Circus coming to a head on Wednesday, Pedro himself stood up to some questions. Despite his slight build, Pedro thrived for many years throwing over 95 MPH. But since, he has broken down. The 95 turned to 88, and Pedro became a master of deception on the mound, still able to thrive on smarts. But when asked about Steroids, Pedro provided us with a typical Pedro answer:
“Yeah, I hurt because I did it clean, because I never had anything against the clean game of baseball. That’s why I was a prima donna. That’s why I hurt. That’s why I don’t pitch 33 outings every year. Because I have a small frame, and I did it clean. And all I could take was two Aleves or two Advil, a cup of coffee, a little mango and an egg, and go out there and let it go and face everybody that’s out there. And you know what? That’s the era I dominated.”
Once again, we see the Mango playing a pivotal role in Pedro's life. As a child, he sat under the Mango trees in the Dominican Republic. He threw the mangoes with his brother, Ramon. His first kiss, perhaps, came under the mango tree. And now, the truth comes out. For all the wisdom Pedro may impart on Santana or any other pitcher on the Mets, perhaps they will do it over a dish of mango. It has to be the mangoes that made him great. From his humble beginnings to now.