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Pedro throws, albeit with customized shoe

Mets ace Pedro Martinez took another step Saturday in rehabilitating his sore toe, throwing from a slope about a foot in front of the pitcher's mound.

Martinez threw 32 pitches in Port St. Lucie, although without his usual speed and power. Twice he took breaks for trainer Ray Ramirez to work on his customized right shoe, which cracked where a cleat had been moved to relieve pressure on the toe.

It was the first time Martinez had stepped on a mound since September.

The right shoe Martinez used Saturday has a cleat moved farther down than normal to help him experience less pain during the pitching motion. Martinez also wore a pair of gel pads to protect his toe.

He feels confident his toe will not delay his start with the Mets this year.

"I believe I'm going to be there opening day unless something goes wrong," he said.

He said he was able to push off his right leg again in ways he wasn't last fall.

"I can't compare it right now to the way it was toward the end of the season because toward the end of the season, I couldn't really push," he said. "I couldn't really get on that leg that much, but now, it feels a lot better. So now, I'm probably 70 percent better than I was during the offseason."

NEGRO LEAGUES TRIBUTE: In honor of Black History Month, ESPN Classic organized a retro game today at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Ala., between the famed Black Barons team and the Bristol Barnstormers. Former collegiate and minor league players will don vintage 1940s uniforms and equipment to pay tribute to a bygone era. Willie Mays, the Hall of Fame Giant, is expected back in his native Alabama to throw the ceremonial first pitch at 4 p.m.

Former Negro Leaguers Greason and Jessie Mitchell will be in attendance as well.

BONDS INTERVIEW RULES CHANGE: Media members must sign a release waiver to conduct one-on-one interviews with Barry Bonds but not for interviews in normal group settings, the producer of his reality TV show told the Giants.

ATHLETICS: In Phoenix, newcomer Milton Bradley broke his six-day silence and kept his first spring training interview non-controversial.

Five reporters were told by the A's public relations department to keep all questions restricted to baseball. Bradley went one step further, saying he would talk only about his experience with the A's.

Bradley declined to be interviewed when he reported early to camp last Sunday, saying, "I really don't want to deal with the media this spring."

BREWERS: The team extended manager Ned Yost's contract through 2008, rewarding him for the Brewers' first non-losing season since 1992. The Brewers finished 81-81 in 2005, Yost's third season. His contract includes a club option for 2009.

CUBS: Third baseman Aramis Ramirez that he will not play for the Dominican Republic in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, saying he's not yet ready to play all out.

NATIONALS: In Viera, an MRI showed pitcher Brian Lawrence has a torn right shoulder and will be out until the All-Star break.

REDS: In Sarasota, Aaron Harang was promoted to the front of the rotation and could start opening day.

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