I know the word "simulated game" sounds exciting, but let's keep in perspective what actually happened today. Pedro Martinez faced six very minor prospects, two of them left-handed hitters. There was no defense behind him. There were two kids in the outfield to shag balls. There was no umpire. Anything except balls and strikes is irrelevant in this type of situation, and even those are unofficial.
So what happened?
Maritnez faced 20 batters in four simulated half-innings. In between, he sat on the bench as another Phillies minor leaguer threw to batters. The intent was to simulate the time off between innings that a pitcher will experience in games. He threw 64 pitches according to an unofficial tally, and tallied an estimated six strikeouts.
"I'm excited about the fact that it was four innings, at 15 pitches an inning, on a hot, humid day, not being in a very good situation -- I didn't have spring training, I didn't have anything -- and I'm still throwing strikes," Martinez said. "Those kids have seen the ball around, and I am able to execute some of the things that I would execute. I feel comfortable with it. For the time, and the up and down and flying in and out all those days, the needle in my shoulder -- to me it was a plus. I'm not going to really brag about this because it was nothing, but I am satisfied with the way things are at this time."
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said his number one goal was to get a feel for Martinez's current pitchability. This was the first time he saw Martinez face live batters (although an erroneous report had him in the Dominican Republic two weeks ago), and just the second time he saw him throw at all (the first was in a bullpen session on Saturday).
His impressions? He liked the way the ball was coming out of Martinez's hand, and he liked the way Martinez threw his off-speed pitches for strikes.
"I really hadn't seen him pitch, obviously, even though some people thought I had seen him pitch," Amaro said. "I had not seen him pitch other than the side session he had with doobs in florida. It was good just to see him get off the mound and get a feel for him as far as him throwing versus hitters. I thought it went very well considering the situation. The ball seemed to be coming out of his hand much better in the second two innings than the first. He utilized all his pitches. I was impressed with his ability to throw his off-speed pitches for strikes. I think it was a good step for him and we'll continue to progress him."
Martinez threw all of his pitches. He throws a four-seam fastball, a sinker, a change-up, a curve ball and a cutter. He relies heavily on his change-up, and often uses his sinker to disguise it. There was no radar gun on Martinez today, at least not one that I could see. Martinez was not thrilled with his change-up, but it looked to me like he threw it consistently for strikes.
The most important thing right now, though, is volume. Martinez hasn't thrown more than 65 pitches since last season. He was very deliberate today in his delivery, several times stepping off the mound in order to make sure the front-end of his delivery was solid.
"I'm looking for volume," Martinez said. "I'm looking to actually get on top of the mound and to make pitches. I didn't feel tired. I felt like I could do more."
Both Martinez and Amaro gave positive reviews about the outing. So what's next? If all goes exactly according to plan, he will face hitters again on Sunday. Both sides hope that will come in a rehab outing (Class A Clearwater is home that day; the GCL Phillies are off), but they could decide to have him pitch another simulated game. When the Phillies say they are taking it day-by-day, they aren't just being coy. Martinez will throw a side session on Thursday. I expect that on Friday there will be some sort of announcement about what the plan is for Sunday.
"I'm just going to follow whatever steps we have to do," Martinez said. "Tomorrow is my work day. I'm just going to kill myself tomorrow morning working, and on the next day I am expecting to throw a side session. (Pitching coach Carlos) Arroyo brought up some good points about my hand and the slot where I use my hand. I am going to try to go out there and work on that, get more consistency out of expanding the fastball -- elevating and also location. I have to work a little bit on the sinker. It still runs some times a little bit more than I want it. The change-up seems to be working but I don't feel quite as confident as I would like to. So I am going to work on those things in the next two days and then from there on go and do whatever we have to do. If it is another simulated, I will do another simulated. If it is a game, it's a game. I'm not disappointed with the way things went today. For 12, maybe 14 days without seeing a batter and coming back and being able to see guys that are consistently playing baseball, it's a really big step for me."