Sports your connection to The Boston Globe

Throat ailment shelves Martinez

Just as their mounting on-field woes posed one of their gravest challenges of the season, the Red Sox yesterday confronted another daunting obstacle when Pedro Martinez was sidelined with severe throat inflammation.

The illness, which came on suddenly the previous night, forced the Sox to replace their ace with Casey Fossum in the finale of a pivotal three-game series against the A's and raised questions about whether Martinez will remain on schedule to face the Yankees in each of Boston's final two series against their archrivals.

Martinez was on medication for an abnormally high fever and throat discomfort and was resting at home as the Sox prepared to the face the A's, according to team spokesman Kevin Shea. Team physician Bill Morgan diagnosed the ace's condition as pharyngitis, a severe inflammation of the throat, though the results of a battery of tests were pending, Shea said. The Sox said Morgan was unavailable to discuss the team's prized righthander.

Manager Grady Little said Martinez, who leads the American League in ERA (2.32), will pitch again as soon as he is able, but the team could not estimate a recovery period until Morgan evaluates the test results. Pharyngitis can involve either a viral or bacterial infection and can be related to strep throat, among other conditions.

"Hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later," Little said of the ace's return.

Martinez appeared fine Wednesday night in the Sox dugout during the 6-4 loss to the A's, though he took a turn for the worse soon after, according to the team's account. His symptoms involved both abdominal and respiratory trouble during a sleepless night.

"It's a combination of intestinal and throat [discomfort]," Little said. "He's a sick young man, and we're trying to get him better."

Dr. Gerald Berke, chief of otolaryngology at UCLA School of Medicine, said patients with viral cases of pharyngitis generally are advised to rest at home and consume fluids such as water, tea, and chicken soup. If the case is bacterial, he said, the patient would be treated with steroids to reduce the inflammation and antiobiotics for the infection. Berke had not discussed the case with Martinez or Morgan.

"If he has an acute infection, he's probably so lethargic he wouldn't be able to pitch if he wanted to," Berke said. "His throat could be so sore, he can't drink and is dehydrated and could even need an IV."

Martinez called the team's medical staff between 7 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to report his condition. A member of the medical crew transported him about 8:30 a.m. to St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Brighton, where he spent nearly six hours being examined by Morgan and undergoing tests, including an abdominal CAT-scan, which was negative, and an ultrasound test. The Sox said Martinez's white blood cell count was elevated.

Martinez left the hospital about 2 p.m., just as Little informed Fossum he would make the emergency start. Fossum's only other start since early June was Aug. 8, when he allowed four runs (none earned) over 5 1/3 innings in a 4-2 loss to the Orioles.

"It's an opportunity for Casey Fossum to step up," Kevin Millar said. "This is where heroes are made."

Martinez, who missed 22 games from May 16 to June 11 with a strained right latissimus, had been moved up a day in the rotation to face the A's and put him on track for two starts against the Yankees. He was flipflopped with Jeff Suppan, who is scheduled to start tonight against the Mariners unless Martinez recovers quicker than expected.

As it stands, Suppan would be followed in the rotation by John Burkett tomorrow, Derek Lowe Sunday, and Tim Wakefield Monday in the final of the four-game set against the Mariners. The Sox most likely would gear Martinez's return to ensure he pitches against the Yankees next weekend at Fenway and Sept. 5-7 in the Bronx.

"We look forward to every fifth day when Pedro is starting," Millar said. "We know we have a pretty good shot of shutting the other team down. This guy is phenomenal, but to find out that he's sick is not going to change the confidence of me and Nomar [Garciaparra] and everyone else on this team. We're going to go out and do the best we can regardless of whether he's on the mound."

Martinez is scheduled to be examined again today by Morgan.

Gordon Edes of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Globe Archives Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months