- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 29, 2009

NEW YORK | In this city of larger-than-life stories, of heroes and villains, there’s nobody quite like Pedro Martinez.

Few pitchers have intersected with the New York Yankees in more big moments, enjoyed a more dominant peak or had more fun playing the role of the bad guy in the Bronx - first with the Boston Red Sox during their two-year postseason quest to overtake the Yankees and then with the crosstown New York Mets.

It was Martinez who threw Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground during a brawl in the 2003 American League Championship Series - an incident he called “a disgrace” Wednesday and said he now regrets. It was Martinez who famously called the Yankees his “daddy” after one particularly hairy outing, leading to a chorus of “Who’s your daddy?” chants every time he pitched at Yankee Stadium after that.

Now Martinez is back for his most unlikely go-round with the Yankees.

Signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in July, the 38-year-old Martinez will pitch Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium. It’s a new twist on an old rivalry that had its last memorable moments five years ago, when Martinez and the Red Sox overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in the ALCS.

“After playing in New York, I went to realize something: New York fans are very passionate and very aggressive,” Martinez said. “But after it all, after you take your uniform off and you deal with the people, they’re real human beings. It’s all just being fans.”

Martinez’s playoff track record against the Yankees is spotty at best. He struck out 12 in seven two-hit innings in the 1999 ALCS but lost games in the 2003 and 2004 ALCS against the Yankees. Not to mention the famous Game 7 no-decision in 2003 when the Yankees tied the score in the eighth inning after manager Grady Little left Martinez in the game too long, eventually winning on Aaron Boone’s 11th-inning homer.

“I don’t know if you realize this, but because of you [reporters] in some ways, I might be at times the most influential player that ever stepped in Yankee Stadium,” Martinez said. “I can honestly say that.”

In the latter stages of a career beset by injuries, Martinez isn’t the same pitcher he was during those Red Sox-Yankees battles. But he shut the Dodgers out for seven innings in Game 2 of the NLCS, serving notice he might still be capable of another memorable showdown or two.

“I think that definitely he’s ready, and I think he can handle the big setting,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “He’s been there before, and he likes being there. I think who he is plays a big part in it. We’ll see tomorrow night.”

Roster changes

Anticipating extra pinch hitters and pitching changes once the series shifts to Philadelphia on Saturday, the Yankees added outfielder Eric Hinske and reliever Brian Bruney to their World Series roster. To make room for the two players, they dropped infielder Freddy Guzman and catcher Francisco Cervelli.

“In the National League, sometimes there’s more pitching changes because you have to hit for them,” manager Joe Girardi said. “So we thought it was important to add another pitcher.”

The Phillies took infielder Miguel Cairo off the roster, replacing him with reliever Brett Myers. Manuel said the fact that Eric Bruntlett can play all the outfield positions put him ahead of Cairo in the event the Phillies make some late-game moves in the outfield.

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