Fernando Martinez got the call-up Thursday, boarding a plane from Buffalo at 5 a.m., through Detroit and onto Denver to join the Mets. The long and tiring journey seemed a bit like his path to the majors.
Martinez has been a perpetual prospect, a player who has been in more major league camps with the Mets than all but a handful of players, signing as a 16-year-old international free agent and then being on the verge every year since then. His progress has been disrupted by a combination of injuries -- lots of injuries -- and a too-much, too-soon failure when he's been plugged in. He's been around so long it's easy to forget just how young he is -- even for him.
"Sometimes I feel like an old man," Martinez said.
But he's just 22 years old. Even after all he has been though he is the kid in the clubhouse, the youngest player in the room. Last year's pair of top rookies, Buster Posey and Neftali Feliz, are both older than him. Go through the prospects who have passed him by even in the Mets organization -- Kirk Nieuwenhuis is a year older than him, Matt Harvey -- this year's pitching phenom making his minor-league debut -- is just five months younger than Martinez.
"You want to prove to people you can play every day," said Martinez on Saturday, who was in the lineup when Carlos Beltran was a late scratch. "I feel perfect now. I feel great. I just want to be ready for everything. I want to play here and contribute."
He arrived with a bang, homering Friday to spur a Mets comeback and then doubling in his first at-bat Saturday. But any hype aimed at Martinez now comes with a disclaimer as he has an arthritic right knee -- a condition the Mets don't believe will ever get better.
"There's no question, he's going to have to deal with it his whole career," Mets manager Terry Collins said of the knee, which is similar to what Beltran is dealing with at the age of 34. "There's nothing you can do. The wonders of modern medicine might come up with something soon to relieve the arthritis that has set in there at this young age. He's going to have to just deal with some discomfort as Carlos does on a daily basis."
The Mets beat Houston 7-4 Sunday.
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