A superstar in the streets

"Proof is not talking," Martinez said when asked if he was looking forward to proving himself. "Proof is in the field." (Elizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer)

He has won Cy Youngs and a World Series. He has played in the country's largest city, and in one of its most fervent baseball markets. He is a hero in his homeland, both for his athletic exploits and his charity work. He once declared that if he ever came face-to-face with Babe Ruth, well, he'd probably drill the Bambino right in the keister.

So it probably should not come as a surprise that, despite a diminished fastball, Pedro Martinez has lost no feel for the spotlight. Walking down ninth street in Center City earlier this afternoon, his eyes shaded behind a pair of designer sunglasses, the future Hall of Famer basked in both the mid-day sun and the gaggle of media who matched him stride-for-stride. As lunchtime passers-by became aware of his presence, the moving circle around him grew larger, first one-deep, then two, until the scene took on the feel of a prophet walking through dirt-paved streets, his disciples eagerly awaiting the Good News he would speak.

A reporter asked him in Spanish how his body felt.

"Good," he replied, "Thank God."

An older man in a white T-shirt and a black cap pushed his way to the front. Martinez threw his arm around him and smiled.

"This is my man!" Martinez proclaimed.

Then came two honks, and a pick-up truck headed north, as the horde oozed south.

"Pedro!" a voice called as the truck rolled past.

Martinez smiled and pointed. The driver, too, is his man.

The expressions on the faces of the members of his entourage relayed their varying familiarity with such situations. Up front were two Phillies personnel, their strides brisk and their eyes uncertain. Behind them was agent Fernando Cuza, attempting half-heartedly to wave off questions, yet wearing the smile of a man who has witnessed this scene before. And then there was Martinez, his entire person at ease in its surroundings, smiling and laughing as he jousted with reporters. He gave them no concrete answers, but enough of a show to lead the 6 o'clock news.

"We are going to talk about baseball now, here in the street?" he asked, his tone that of a schoolboy flirting with a female classmate.

He said all the things you would expect him to say.

"Proof is not talking," Martinez said when asked if he was looking forward to proving himself. "Proof is in the field."

Whether he gets that chance with the Phillies remains to be seen. He arrived in Philadelphia around 11:30 Monday night, then rolled up to the office of team doctor Michael Ciccotti at 10:50 Tuesday morning. He remained inside for close to two hours, and after emerging, said that the physical was "not over yet."

Cuza waved off questions, saying there would be plenty of time to talk later. Asked if the physical involved an MRI, he declined comment. Martinez underwent shoulder surgery in 2006, and was hampered by groin trouble last season. Most physicals are formalities. But for Martinez, that does not appear to be the case.

Privately, several members of the Phillies organization have indicated that the physical is an end-point and not a beginning, that if doctors give Martinez a clean bill of health, a news conference could come as soon as tomorrow. Again, Cuza declined to comment.

Martinez said "We're going to play some ball here," but it was not clear if he was speaking in a literal sense, or in a board-room-negotiating sense.

When does a star become a superstar? Perhaps when he realizes that there is value in anticipation, that regardless of actual results, what people want most is a show.

Pedro Martinez might not be the same pitcher who won three Cy Youngs in four years. He might not be one of the 15 highest-paid players in the Phillies clubhouse if and when he signs. But remember Randy Johnson, and the scene of him walking through the streets of New York City, and the way he scowled and tossed a back-pedalling camera man out of the way?

Well, suffice to say, that isn't Pedro Martinez.

"Nothing is confirmed yet," he said. "We are still working."

But that wasn't enough.

"Take it easy," he added. "I'll talk to you guys later."