After last night’s tremendous performance by Pedro Martinez (and subsequent game-winning blast by Carlos Beltran — his first HR at Shea), the Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti seeks to clarify whether or not Ramon Castro is Martinez’ personal backstop. Because he’s not. Even if it looks that way. And what would be the problem if he was? Who are you calling defensive?

Willie Randolph insists there is no conspiracy or hidden agenda.

Mike Piazza said he simply needed a rest.

So, it just so happened that Piazza was watching from the dugout again Monday night when Pedro Martinez started for the Mets against the Philadelphia Phillies. It was the fourth time in the last five Martinez starts that Ramon Castro got the call to catch instead of Piazza, including the last three.

“All you conspiracy guys, that’s just the way it rolls. That’s all,” Randolph said. “If he had a normal day game [Sunday], he would probably be playing today.”

Still, this sounded like just the latest excuse. The Mets said Piazza was unable to catch Martinez a week ago against Atlanta because of a sore thumb and he was a late scratch for Martinez’s previous start because he was “sore.”

“There’s no blueprint,” Piazza said. “[Randolph] walked in and I was sleeping on the couch [in the training room] and kind of just asked me, ‘How do you feel? What do you think?’ Plus, to me if I’m not what I feel is acceptable to play, if I’m not able to move, it’s not fair to [Martinez] or any pitcher.”

Piazza understands the questions about his catching relationship with Martinez. When you also include that Martinez threw three wild pitches the last time Piazza caught him on April 16 against Florida – all three on curveballs – the speculation that Martinez would like a better defensive catcher also makes sense.

Still, Piazza claims that is not the case.

“If it was, we would tell you,” Piazza said. “Honestly, it’s just falling this way. Pedro was supposed to pitch [Sunday] and they pushed him back. We had an 8 o’clock game. We got in at 4 a.m. I got to bed at 5. It just happens to fall this way. If it was something different, we would tell you the case and I talked to Willie about it. I’m sure there’s going to be plenty of opportunities [to catch Martinez].

“If I was 25, I would be playing [Monday night], but I’m looking long term.

Jose Reyes (4 for 5 last night), almost walked in the 8th inning, taking a (high) called strike with a 3-1 count before grounding out, 6-3, on the 5th pitch of the at bat. With the count at 3-1, the chants of “walk, walk” were clearly audible over the radio and TV feeds, and perhaps with this sort of public encouragement, Reyes will take his first base on balls sometime before the trading deadline.