Thursday, July 3, 2014

Reliever Martin focused on return to big leagues

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Ethan Martin, Image- Jay Floyd
Two weeks between outings last month was not wasted by righty hurler Ethan Martin. Sitting in the Phillies' bullpen allowed the 25-year-old plenty of time to watch and learn.

As the Phillies' long man for a short stretch in June, the 25-year-old appeared in two games. He then waited for a chance to take the mound and face live competition once again, working on the side and staying prepared.

The Phillies' starting pitchers averaged nearly seven innings per outing over the 15 games that occured from when Martin, a right-hander, last appeared in a big league game on June 7th till when he was reassigned back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on June 23rd.

The club's bullpen mainstays, namely Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, Mario Hollands, Jake Diekman and Justin De Fratus, tallied a 0.62 ERA in that same time frame, covering 30 total appearances.

There was nowhere for Martin, who the Phillies acquired in the 2012 Shane Victorino trade with the Dodgers, to fit in as a reliever with all that success.

"They said, 'We gotta get you in and right now, everybody (else) is on fire.'", Martin explained about how he was approached by coaches in regards to his recent demotion. "It's understandable. I had to come back down here and work on some stuff and get back in the grove."

In four innings of work at the major league level this season. Martin allowed two earned runs on one hit while walking three and striking out four.

During his down time as a member of the Phillies' roster in June, Martin kept his eyes, ears and his mind open, trying to absorb as much as possible from the talented pitchers around him.

"You listen to what they do or watch what they do and talk to them. I mean, they're there for a reason. They're getting paid and they've been there for years for a reason. So, obviously, they know how to do it. Yeah, I try to figure out what they're doing and see what helps them and take that try to fit it into (my) game," Martin said.

One pitcher that Martin looked up to and sought out for insight and assistance was righty Kyle Kendrick. The veteran 29-year-old has steadily been a versatile hurler over the years since he debuted with the Phillies in 2007, switching back and forth from the starting rotation to the bullpen multiple times. Preparation and mindset were among the main lessons Martin picked up from Kendrick, taking on methods from the elder pitcher's bullpen days. Side work. Stretching routine. Mental groundwork.

The Georgia native, Martin, pitched predominantly as a starter until last year, when it was clear that his velocity would decline and production suffered with the more pitches he threw (details on that here and here).

Entering the 2014 campaign, Martin, who was the Dodgers' 1st round draft selection (15th overall) in 2008, had started 101 of his 137 career professional appearances.

"It's obviously a different role than I've been doing the last few years, but I feel like I can handle it, without a doubt. I just have to take time and try to figure out that process of what I have to do day in and day out to be able to perform and throw zeroes every time," Martin asserted.

Martin feels healthy now, but was placed on the disabled list with a sore shoulder after his initial Grapefruit League appearance this spring. He missed nearly two months.

Lehigh Valley skipper Dave Brundage is confident in Martin's future as a bullpen contributor and feels he's not far from helping the big club.

"He's still working on (the transition to relieving) and, obviously, coming off the arm soreness and not having his velocity is a little bit different. He's a little bit perplexed, but he's definitely gaining on it and gaining a little bit more arm strength each outing," Brundage said.

Prior to his promotion to the big leagues this year, Martin sported a 1.69 ERA through eight appearances with Lehigh Valley. Since rejoining the IronPigs last month, Martin has allowed 11 earned runs in five innings (19.80 ERA) while walking eight and striking out three in four games.

To climb back up to the big leagues, Martin is focusing on repeating his release point and pounding the strike zone.

"I just gotta bare down and keep going. It's pretty frustrating for me right now. The results are frustrating. I just gotta get the feeling back on the mound. It's just going to take progress and get it back."

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