Sunday, February 20, 2011
#628) PEDRO ASTACIO
Pedro Astacio signed a free agent contract with the New York Mets on January 16, 2002. The club had long wanted to acquire the right-hander who had unfortunately suffered a slight tear in his right labrum the previous year. "We understand there's some level of risk, but the upside and reward could be significant as well," commented Mets General Manager, Steve Phillips. Astacio passed his physical and was introduced with a press conference at Shea Stadium. "My shoulder is fine, 100 percent," Pedro proclaimed that day.
The Mets announced Astacio as a member of the starting rotation from the day they signed him. Pedro seemed to not agree with that fact. He claimed to the press that he was earning a spot throughout spring training camp. Either way, the results were good as the velocity his pitches previously lacked appeared to have returned with rest. "I throw the ball like normal Pedro," said Astacio. "Whatever happened to my arm is in the past."
Astacio started the season with great success. Removing all doubt with a near no-hitter at Shea Stadium on April 27th. Fellow Mets pitcher, Shawn Estes had came close to perfection the previous day, and Astacio followed that by not allowing a Milwaukee Brewer hit until after one out in the seventh inning. "It can happen," said Pedro. "We have to keep pitching well and we'll keep winning ballgames. I don't think anybody is worried about a no-hitter. We're just trying to win." In Los Angeles the revitalized pitcher even topped that performance. "He's met the challenge every time this year," stated Mets manager Bobby Valentine following a complete-game two-hit shutout of the Dodgers on May 14th. "His breaking ball was just outstanding. He was throwing 94 in the ninth inning, so there was nobody sitting on anything, and it was really a heart breaking curveball."
Unfortunately his season began to unravel in mid-August. He struggled with a 1-7 record and 10.80 ERA during the final two months of 2002. The swoon coincided with the fall of the rest of the team as an earlier promising Mets club dropped to a 75-86 season record. Astacio posted a 12-11 record, 4.79 ERA and started 31 games.
Early in spring training of 2003 concerns began over the health of Pedro's shoulder. On March 6th he was flown back to New York from Florida for medical tests. Astacio's complaints of discomfort alarmed the Mets staff since as new manager, Art Howe explained, "He'll go out there with a broken arm and pitch." Pedro was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis. The ailment forced him to the disabled list for the first three weeks of the regular season. Upon his return it was apparent that he was not pitching at full strength. Astacio appeared in seven games and saw his ERA balloon to 7.36. Pedro was battered for seven runs and three home runs in four innings of work against the Philadelphia Phillies in his final game on May 28th. The Mets placed him on the disabled list days later. He would not return to the mound that season.
New York granted Astacio free agency on October 29, 2003. He would return to pitch for several teams before retiring in 2006.
After his playing career, he went back to his native Dominican Republic to live on his ranch in San Pedro de Marcoris. His longtime home is near that of former Mets teammate Armando Benitez.
Pedro Astacio signed his card in the set for my friend, John Guzman during his visit to the Dominican Republic on January 20, 2011.