PHOTO: AP (Brian Schneider’s expression says it all).
MIAMI _ Regretfully for the Mets, it is the simplest of equations: Pitchers plus hamstrings equals the bad news of the disabled list.
“When a pitcher pulls a hamstring itâ€™s almost always automatic,â€™â€™ glum Mets manager Willie Randolph said yesterday when asked about Pedro Martinez as his team took batting practice.
Roughly an hour later, Martinez was placed on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring and replaced on the roster by Nelson Figueroa.
The MRI showed a mild strain and the prognosis is heâ€™ll be out from four to six weeks. Often such projections turn out to be overly enthusiastic.
Perhaps also too enthusiastic were the Metsâ€™ expectations of Martinez for this season. After shoulder surgery following the 2006 season, Martinez only started five games last year.
So optimistic was Randolph of Martinezâ€™s health he said there would be no limitations.
“We were all counting on Pedro,â€™â€™ Randolph said. “He worked real hard to get back to this point. I feel bad for him and Iâ€™m sure this is a disappointment to him.â€™â€™
Even so, Martinez is 36 and has shown breakdown signs the past two years. This is the eighth time in his career heâ€™s been on the disabled list.
Figueroa competed for the long-relief and fifth starter positions during spring training and was one of the final roster cuts. When the Mets sent down Figueroa, they told him to keep working hard because he could eventually get an opportunity.
Nobody could have imagined it would be by the third game of the season, but Randolph had a feeling when he talked with Martinez Tuesday he would have to prepare for the worst.
“It doesnâ€™t look good when he said he heard something pop,â€™â€™ Randolph said.
Martinezâ€™s next start would have been the Shea Stadium opener, Tuesday against Philadelphia, but Randolph is planning on moving up last nightâ€™s starter, Oliver Perez.
As it is, even by moving him up, Perez would get an extra day and get five full days of rest.
Presumably, Figueroa would get a start the following weekend against Milwaukee.
As for Jorge Sosa, Randolph said, “weâ€™re going to keep him where he is,â€™â€™ which is in the bullpen.
Randolph likes Sosaâ€™s versatility and doesnâ€™t want to tamper with what he gets. Sosa came in to strike out Josh Willingham with two runners in scoring position Monday, and Tuesday he replaced Martinez and threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings.
“We have options,â€™â€™ Randolph said.
By the weekend of April 11, it is conceivable Orlando Hernandez might be ready.
“I donâ€™t know the answer to that question,â€™â€™ said Hernandez, who is working out with the team in Miami, but will return to make a minor league rehab start tonight against Vero Beach at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie.
Looking outside the organization, the team is considering Claudio Vargas, formerly of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Scrambling for pitching is nothing new to Randolph, who in 2006 started 13 different pitchers and last season gave the ball to twelve.
“Every disappointment offers an opportunity,â€™â€™ David Wright said. “We could find the next John Maine.â€™â€™
True enough, as Maine emerged in the second half of the 2006 season when Martinez was on the disabled list.
“Itâ€™s unfortunate not to have Pedro,â€™â€™ Wright said. “But, the fact is Pedro is not here and we have to step up and get the job done.
“Everybody has to do a little bit more to pick up the slack. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. This is something that weâ€™re going to have to do.â€™â€™