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He'll let actions speak

By Gordon Edes
Globe Staff / October 13, 2004

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NEW YORK -- Since Pedro Martinez wasn't talking, leave it to Kevin Millar to clear that up.

"Well, I'm his daddy, not the Yankees, so he answers to me first," said Millar, who, like Johnny Damon last week in Anaheim, stood in for Martinez in the pregame media conference that usually features the next day's pitcher.

And leave it to Millar to offer this forecast of how he expects Martinez to pitch against a team that doesn't own him but has caused him more aggravation, frustration, and yes, failure, than any other team in the big leagues.

"I think he'll be huge," Millar said in a hallway outside the Red Sox clubhouse before last night's 10-7 loss. "He's throwing the ball great. Anaheim was a big test for him, and look what he did there. Unbelievable. I expect him to throw the ball very well."

And just when the burden of carrying the Sox on his slender shoulders was supposedly lessened by the presence of Curt Schilling, it's all back on the little Dominican, as the Yankees chased Schilling with six runs in three innings in last night's 10-7 loss, the crowd mocking Schilling with "Who's your daddy?" chants, and Schilling afterward saying that if his ankle keeps him from being any better than he was last night, he won't take the ball again in this series.

"We kept hearing those chants," Damon said. "But we think Petey's going to show up. We think he's ready to take on the challenge."

Is there any precedent for one pitcher to have his history so inextricably tied to one opponent? Martinez's countryman and idol, Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, had the Dodgers and years of duels against Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax. But take away one infamous incident -- the 1965 game when Marichal struck Dodgers catcher John Roseboro with a bat and gave him a concussion -- and Marichal's legacy would be tied solely to the Giants uniform he wore for most of his career.

Martinez had his inflammatory moment -- tipping an oncharging septuagenarian, Yankees coach Don Zimmer, during a brawl in last October's American League Championship Series that led him to be labeled "Fenway Punk" on the back of one Gotham tabloid -- but there has been so much more. Perhaps the best game he ever pitched was at Yankee Stadiun, on Sept. 10, 1999, when he allowed one hit -- Chili Davis's home run -- and struck out 17, the most pinstripers ever to go down on their home turf. There was the Game of the Century, when he vanquished Roger Clemens in the '99 playoffs. The reprise in the ALCS four years later, when Martinez lost his composure and Clemens improbably kept his. And, of course, five outs away last Oct. 16.

The defiant "wake up the Bambino and have me face him. Maybe I'll drill him" declaration in 2001. The equally defiant retort when he responded to Clemens hitting Millar by hitting Derek Jeter, provoking George Steinbrenner to fulminate. "He'll probably buy the whole league," Martinez said, "but not my desire and my heart. He's not going to put any fear in my heart."

But then there was the bizarre confessional after he was beaten for the second time in five days by the Yankees Sept. 24, when he said he wished he never had to face them again and uttered, "call the Yankees my daddy."

When Martinez was ineffective in his next start, against the Devil Rays, who sent him to a fourth straight loss, he suddenly was deflecting charges that he'd lost whatever aura of invincibility he once had, as well as inferences that he'd mailed it in against the D-Rays because he was upset that Schilling had been tapped to pitch the playoff opener. That was ridiculous, Martinez said, but that led to his recent boycott of pregame media sessions. Phyllis Merhige, a vice president of Major League Baseball, told the irritated sector of the assembled media that was Martinez's prerogative.

"It isn't mandatory," Merhige said, "and Major League Baseball has always taken the position that if someone didn't want to appear here, there's no point in forcing the issue."

Besides, with the Sox now relying on Martinez to even the series tonight, there are much more pressing issues. Namely, to find a way to defeat a team that has beaten the Sox in 19 of the 30 games in which Martinez has started.

Never mind that in Martinez's Yankee starts, he has hit 17 batters, and a potential sideshow loomed in the aftermath of comments by Yankee slugger Gary Sheffield, who took exception to being plunked by Martinez here July 1.

"You're messing with the wrong guy," Sheffield barked at Martinez that night, then expanded on his annoyance with the Sox pitcher in an interview with Sports Illustrated last week.

"I gave him one buddy pass," Sheffield said in the article. "If he says one word to me, he's done. Pedro, your buddy pass is over. I've been playing for 17 years. I will never be disrespected on a baseball field, on or off. If he tries anything again, I won't hurt my team, but I'm telling you, I will take care of him."

A lot of bluster, according to Millar, who played with Sheffield on the Florida Marlins.

"He's just saying that," Millar said. "He's just b.s.-ing. He's not going to do anything."

Besides, there is no greater hurt Sheffield and the Yankees could inflict on Martinez than to send the Sox back home, down two games.

Maybe that's why Millar was making light of the "daddy" crack.

"I thought it was funny," he said. "There should be a lot of Toby Keith played here today, that song, `Who is Your Daddy,' all of the articles, your daddy this, your daddy that.

"There's only one way to do it and time will tell. He goes out and wins the game and throws the way he's capable, it looks like he's a genius."

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