Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ex-Mountaineer Martinez leads AL in ERA

Martinez has a 0.45 ERA through 3 starts.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Two weeks into the Major League Baseball season, former infielder Nick Martinez (Vermont, 2009) has established himself as one of the best pitchers in the American League, posting a league-best 0.45 ERA through his first three starters with the Texas Rangers.

Martinez, who let up a 4.55 ERA in 24 starts with the Rangers last season, wasn't a lock to make the rotation entering Spring Training. Manager Jeff Bannister was impressed by the right-hander's 0.84 ERA in three Cactus League games, and his success has carried over to the start of the season.

Entering today's start against the Angels, Martinez has yet to give up a home run in 20 innings of work and is 2-0 with nine strikeouts. Not known for overpowering stuff, Martinez has gotten results with his four-seam fastball that tops out around 91.

He's gone six innings in all three of his appearances, and holds a 1.00 WHIP. Walks (6) have been an issue in running up his pitch counts, but Bannister isn't complaining as he's holding opposing hitters to a .197 mark.

Martinez went seven innings against the Angels earlier this year, allowing a lone unearned run and just five hits. He squares off against Hector Santiago in today's matchup.

- A.J Pollock (2007) is hitting .344 on the season for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and has an even more impressive .405 mark over his last 10 days. The two-time 2014 NL Player of the Week has come back even better then he was before breaking his hand last year, and is up to his usual stellar defensive play in center, ranking second among center fielders in DRS (defensive runs saved).

- Micah Johnson (2010) went 1-for-3 on his debut at second base for the Chicago White Sox, and is now hitting .282 through his first 14 games at the major league level. Johnson is just 2-for-4 on stolen bases so far after stealing 109 in the past two years in the minors. He's also adjusting defensively, as he ranks 24th among everyday second basemen defensively. Johnson is hitless in his last ten at-bats going into today's game.

- Christian Friedrich (2007) has fanned seven in 10.1 innings out of the bullpen for the Colorado Rockies and has a 3.48 ERA through nine appearances.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Martinez emerges in Rangers rotation

Martinez pitches in his second start of the season against the Angels. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty)
Six years ago, a 6-foot-1 middle infielder decided to play a pair of seasons over two summers at Montpelier’s Recreation Field for the Vermont Mountaineers, hitting a combined .217. 

That Fordham second baseman, Nick Martinez, has since gone on to make his major league debut- as a right-handed MLB starter.

Martinez, an 18th-round draft pick by the Texas Rangers, has established himself in the rotation after allowing a lone unearned run over 14 innings spanning his first two starts.

“Just attack with the fastball, in and out, up and down, change speeds when I have to,” Martinez said after allowing a lone unearned run over seven solid innings in a win over the Los Angeles Angels. “It’s something I worked on a lot in the offseason. I had a small mechanical issue that I was able to fix, I’m zoned in, able to hit my spots consistently.”

The former Mountaineers player has allowed nine hits while limiting opposing batters to a .191 average through his first two starts after winning the fifth rotation spot during Spring Training. Martinez was stellar in the Cactus League, posting a 0.84 ERA. 

He took an unusual path to the starting job, as he made just 15 appearances out of the bullpen with a 5.67 ERA in his career at Fordham. Martinez hit .295 over his Rams career, but Ranger scouts saw something in him as a pitcher.

A few years later, that intuition has paid off big-time.

“When I got drafted as a pitcher, I knew I had a lot to learn.” Martinez said of the transition. “I soak in as much information as I can, process it and retain it, and come to the ballpark every day with an open mind.”

Martinez has seen much of his early success this year due to a well-placed fastball, which ranges from 87 to 91. 

He’s been able to hit his spots and frustrate hitters, including 2014 AL MVP Mike Trout, who went 1-4 with a pair of popouts against Martinez. The key to the right-hander's game is establishing his fastball, something he’s done well in both starts.

“I thought it was great,” Martinez said of his summers in Vermont. 

“It was very similar to the minor league lifestyle- you’re riding on the bus for four or five hours, and then you’ve got to get off and play a game. It gets your body ready for the next level, and your mind as you’ve got to have a pep in your step in August.”

Martinez had a 4.83 ERA in his first full season in the minors with the Class-A Hickory Crawdads, but he quickly began to settle in. 

He held opponents to a .107 average for the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders, then skipped Triple-A to make his major league debut on April 5th against the Rays. 

He finished with a 4.55 ERA over 24 starts in his rookie season, but has gotten off to a much better start this year. Martinez was the 100th NECBL alum to make it to the majors, and is one of nine former Mountaineers to play in the bigs. 

Chicago White Sox second basemen Micah Johnson, New York Yankees reliever David Carpenter and Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder AJ Pollock and Martinez are the four alumni currently in the majors.

Martinez was recently honored at the Mountaineers 2015 banquet as the recipient of the Robin Roberts Award, given to an alum who’s made significant advancement in professional baseball. 

He takes the mound against Pollock and the Diamondbacks on Tuesday at 9:40 ET.