The Texas Rangers Opening Day roster still has a few unsettled positions, a couple of which are in the bullpen. The Rangers went into spring training with no real front runner among the candidates for the lefthanded relief role, with Jeffrey Springs, C.D. Pelham, Brady Feigl and Kyle Bird seen as the most likely candidates, and guys like Zac Curtis and Miguel del Pozo seen as guys who could force their way into the mix.
Well, its now 10 days before Opening Day, Pelham has been optioned, Feigl, Curtis and del Pozo have been sent to the major league camp, and according to Chris Woodward, the guy who is fighting with Bird and Springs to start the season in the major league pen is none other than Brett Martin — someone who I don’t think anyone thought a month ago had a chance of making the team out of camp.
A few days ago, someone in the comments mentioned Martin as someone who could break camp with the team, and I shot down that notion. Then over the weekend, Woodward mentioned Martin had pitched well enough to make the team, and seemed to leave the door open to the possibility of him being in the bullpen to start the season, which would be an incredible turnaround for the 23 year old.
Martin, after all, had a disastrous 2018 season...after being added to the 40 man roster in the 2017-18 offseason, he was terrible at AA Frisco, ultimately losing his spot in the Frisco rotation and being moved to the bullpen to finish out the year. The 2014 4th rounder ended the 2018 season with a 7.28 ERA in 89 innings over 14 starts and 15 relief appearances, with 96 strikeouts against 29 walks, but with 138 hits allowed. The stuff, as always, was there, but the command issues that have bedeviled Martin his entire career killed him last year.
Tepid has been saying to keep an eye on Martin for years now, and has always preached that Martin would be a “slow burn,” a guy who would need a lot of time to hone his mechanics after being drafted out of Walters State Community College by the Rangers just weeks after his 19th birthday. The burn has been slow, as Martin struggled to stay healthy and get results as he crept up the organizational ladder. After last season’s disaster, one had to wonder if the slow burn had turn into nothing more than ashes.
Martin was part of a group of Rangers pitchers that spent three weeks in Seattle working with Driveline Baseball this offseason, however, and from the start of camp he’s been getting rave reviews. The fact that he’s stayed in camp this long, while more heralded pitchers have been sent to the minor leagues already, speaks volumes about the heads he’s been turning, and the desire for the decision-makers to see Martin continue to get innings in major league games this spring.
Ultimately, I still would be awfully surprised if Martin breaks camp with the Rangers. While there appears to be real improvement, I suspect his development would be best served by having him work on a regular schedule in AA or AAA, in an environment where he can continue to lock in the changes he has made without the pressure of performing in the big leagues. Texas has talked about taking things slower in promoting their pitchers the last couple of years, and I think that Martin would benefit from having sustained success before being thrown into the fire in the majors.
That said, the fact that Martin is even being viewed as a legitimate contender for a major league bullpen role to start the season is a huge step forward for him. With Martin being on his second option in 2019, this season was always going to be critical for him, and while we still have to see if he can carry over his early progress to when the games count, its hard to imagine how he could have had a better start to 2019.