For the first time in a decade, Pedro Martinez wore a Phillies jersey and fired a strike Sunday afternoon from a major-league mound. But it is safe to assume that Martinez felt a bit better for Sunday’s ceremonial first pitch than he did in 2009 when he ended his career that October with the Phillies in the World Series.
“It wasn’t told, but most of us were sick,” Martinez said of his Phillies teammates, who celebrated the 10th anniversary of their National League championship before Sunday’s game. “Some of the guys had swine flu and had to be kept away. I caught some of the virus. We would just never say it. When I got home, I realized that I was really sick.”
Martinez, who signed with the Phillies in the middle of the season, started two of the six games against the Yankees. He said he felt fine in Game 2, but battled an illness in Game 6 and lasted just four innings as the Yankees clinched the World Series.
“I had a little bit of an asthma attack in the middle of the game and I was having a hard time breathing,” Martinez said. “I was really sick. In any other situation, I wouldn’t be out there. But the team needed me. I held on as long as I could and I did that. I was really proud to have my last game with the Phillies at Yankee Stadium.”
Martinez made nine regular-season starts in 2009 and the Phillies won all but one of them. He threw 130-pitches for eight shutout innings against the Mets in September, just five days after throwing 119 pitches against the Nationals. Martinez was 37, but he still had something left after the Phillies took a chance on him.
“I’m appreciative that they chose me to come over to a team that was already made,” Martinez said. “Remember, I only came for a half season. But I’m so thankful for the opportunity and the chance to embrace these fans, who only got a good image from me. First, I was like what am I facing? But after being in Boston, I knew that this fanbase was like the Boston one. If I did my job, I knew what to expect. If I didn’t, I knew what to expect.”
Martinez never expected that his career was over when he left Yankee Stadium after Game 6. He said he was told by Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. that the team would want to sign him for 2010. But the offer never came.
“I made a mistake by kicking everybody aside and waiting for this team and then it didn’t happen,” Martinez said. “I was told by Ruben that they were going to go after me so I told the other teams ‘No. Wait.’ The call never came. I had three teams in mind or else I wasn’t going to go. Philadelphia was number one.”
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Martinez, after starting two World Series games, found himself out of baseball. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015. He’ll always be remembered for his emergence with the Expos, his dominance with the Red Sox, and his time with the Mets. But just three months with the Phillies were enough for him to be remembered in Philadelphia.