MONTREAL -- Dennis Martinez, forgotten as a free agent, is having a memorable season for the Montreal Expos.

While Tim Raines and Andre Dawson were asking the Expos for millions last winter, Martinez, a one-time Baltimore Orioles starter, was seeking about $275,000 and eventually settled for $225,000.

Since being recalled from the minors in June, Martinez has a record of 7-1 and a 2.97 earned run average. The Expos have won 12 of the 13 games the right-hander has started. Against the defending world champion New York Mets, Martinez is 3-0, allowing one earned run in 23 innings.

Martinez, 32, was nurtured in the Orioles' organization and became the first Nicaraguan to play in the major leagues on Sept. 14, 1976.

In 1977, Martinez was 14-7. In 1978, he was 16-11. In 1979, he was instrumental in the Orioles' run to the American League pennant, leading the league in starts (39), innings pitched (292) and complete games (18). In 1983, Martinez had his first poor season (7-16), but was a member of the Orioles' world championship team.

Then, before the 1984 season, Martinez spent several days in a program for alcohol dependency. He said his trouble with alcohol was a major reason for his failures during the '83 season.

"It affected my concentration mostly, especially when we were on the road," Martinez said. "It got to the point where I was thinking about what I was going to do after the game, instead of the game itself.

"I blamed everybody but myself. I blamed {Manager} Joe Altobelli, I blamed {catcher} Rick Dempsey, and I blamed pitching coach Ray Miller."

Martinez said once he realized his problem, all he wanted to do was apologize to those people.

Martinez solved his personal problems but could not solve his pitching problems. On June 16, 1986, the Orioles traded him to Montreal, where he finished the year 3-6.

After the season, he became a free agent, but there were no takers for a pitcher on the other side of 30 with a drinking problem in his past.

After three starts this season as a free agent with the Class A Miami Marlins, he was re-signed by the Expos and assigned to Class AAA Indianapolis.

"You have to humble yourself once in a while in life," said Martinez. "I didn't care what people thought."

Montreal promoted him June 8.

"I'm only using four pitches now . . . fastball, slider, change-up and a forkball occasionally," Martinez said. "Changing leagues didn't hurt me either. The hitters over here {in the National League} didn't know me and now I'm mixing up my pitches real well. Previously, I didn't use my head and I tried to challenge everybody with the fastball."

Martinez's success has helped the Expos stay in the NL East pennant race. They trail the first-place St. Louis Cardinals by four games.

Montreal Manager Buck Rodgers said, "Everybody talks about Dawson and Raines, but you can't do much without a pitcher. The free agency was all a misunderstanding, but that's in the past and I'm happy that we have him now."