ST. LOUIS -- After 331 starts in a 13-year Major League career, Pedro Martinez is finally taking center stage Tuesday night at Busch Stadium. It will be his first World Series appearance, and it will come in what could be his last start as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
All of his biggest starts thus far have been against the New York Yankees, be it during the regular season or the American League Championship Series. But now, with Boston leading St. Louis, 2-0, and a chance to take a commanding lead by winning Game 3 of the best-of-seven series, Martinez has the fate of New England and the Red Sox Nation in his ample right hand.
"I expect him to rise to the occasion," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein during a Monday workout in balmy Busch. "I mean, Pedro's one of the all-time greats and it would've been a shame if his career would've ended without him ever having pitched in a World Series. So it's kind of an added thrill for us to get to see him take the World Series mound out there."
Martinez, who celebrated his 33rd birthday on Monday, will file for free agency after the World Series ends, as prescribed by the dictates of the Basic Agreement. No one in the Red Sox organization really wants to address the issue at this point, but it's very possible he may be pitching somewhere other than Boston next year.
The Yankees are considered a real possibility. Earlier in the season, even Martinez indicated that if the Red Sox didn't re-sign him, he could very well wind up with Boston's arch-rival.
The Red Sox haven't won the World Series since they defeated the Cubs in six games in 1918. That, of course, is the focus of the next six days. Martinez, alas, is slated to start the deciding Game 7 on Sunday night at Fenway Park if the series goes the distance.
Thus, Pedro's future and the possibility of signing elsewhere is a topic for next week, not this one, Epstein said.
"That is an issue for the offseason. I don't think I should address that now, if ever," he said.
Martinez's thoughts on the matter went undocumented Monday. He sent word through Major League Baseball media representatives that he would demur. He has a policy of not speaking on the day before he pitches and arrived at the ballpark at 5 p.m. CT, just as the Red Sox clubhouse was closed to the press.
After Curt Schilling's gutsy six-inning, one-run, four-hit performance -- while pitching on a wounded and bleeding right foot -- in Boston's Game 2 victory on Sunday night at Fenway, the anticipation is high for what Pedro will bring to the table.
Schilling joined the Red Sox last winter after a much-negotiated trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. His Game 2 victory made him the first pitcher in Major League history to win World Series games with three different teams -- Philadelphia, Arizona and Boston.
Martinez knows the bar has been set way up there for his first World Series outing.
"I think Pedro had that bar up there long before he was with Schilling," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "Pedro has his own bar."
Martinez has a gaudy 182-76 regular-season record and a 2.71 earned run average. He's 5-2 in 10 postseason starts, all of them coming in the AL Division Series and ALCS.
He's played the last seven seasons in Boston and came to the precipice of the World Series twice before, losing in the ALCS to the Yankees in 1999 and 2003. In the latter series, the Red Sox were five outs away from winning Game 7 at Yankee Stadium when Martinez frittered away a 5-2 lead. He was long in the clubhouse that night when Aaron Boone won the series with his 11th-inning homer off Tim Wakefield.
Pedro Martinez / P
Weight: 180 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Martinez hasn't started since Game 5 of the ALCS against the Yankees, and hasn't been used since a one-inning relief appearance last Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium in Boston's Game 7 clincher. He is fresh and he has something to prove.
"I expect him to go out there and be lights-out. We need to win tomorrow," said center fielder Johnny Damon, the team's designated poet laureate. "He needs to be sharp. He's had some rest. The weather is going to be better than it was in Boston and New York. We expect him to be very good."
The Cardinals have no doubt about that. Martinez came up in the NL as a Dodger and spent his formative years pitching for the Montreal Expos. He has a 3-3 record against the Cardinals in 12 appearances, but that is all ancient history.
Francona knows that Martinez has about a 105-pitch window of effectiveness. And the Cardinals, like the Yankees, may try to make him pitch deep into the count to get him out of the ballgame sooner.
"What you have to do against anybody that's a tough pitcher, you have to compete every at-bat," said Cards manager Tony La Russa. "And in the competition, sometimes you're fouling pitches off, you're not making easy outs. You can't go out and take two strikes. He'll put you away. We're going to compete. Every guy that goes up to bat is going to compete."
Tuesday's game will be start No. 332 of his 13-year career, and Pedro Martinez is at center stage in his first World Series game. He has something to prove -- and that's just the way the Red Sox like it.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.