J.D. Martin returns to the majors
At the end of spring training, the Nationals shipped J.D. Martin to Class AAA Syracuse, where he had spent his whole season before last night. He never questioned the decision - "I try not to even think about that stuff," Martin said. But last year, Martin made 15 starts for the Nationals, going 5-4 with a 4.44 ERA, and when he arrived in spring training this year, he faced long odds to make the opening day rotation.
"We got a good look at him," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "I think we probably, without making any assumptions, we kind of put him in there as about the sixth guy in our mind. The odds of him being on our club were diminishing. He actually pitched well enough to make the club. But we had to make a call."
At Class AAA Syracuse, Martin experienced back trouble, two bulging disks that required an MRI exam. He missed two starts, but still pitched well enough to warrant a chance, going 2-1 with a 2.97 ERA in six starts.
"He went down and worked hard," Riggleman said. "He didn't pout. He didn't complain. He just did his work and has earned his way back."
The result from that work came Saturday night, Martin's first major league start this season. He allowed four hits and no walks in six innings, surrendering just one earned run. Martin pitched well enough to prove he belonged, but one pitch and some costly defensive mistakes gave him the loss.
"We lost," Martin said. "That was the main thing. I feel like I got deep enough in the game to give us a chance. But that's how it goes."
Martin pitched in front several family members and friends - he's not even sure how many - who made the three-hour drive from his home town, Ridgecrest, Calif. He savored the chance to pitch in front of them, and just as he did the chance to pitch in the majors again. "It was great to be back up here," Martin said.
Martin will start again five days from now, Scott Olsen still mending the stiffness in his shoulder that landed him on the 15-day disabled list. He has a chance to show the Nationals what he couldn't this spring, that he deserves a spot in the rotation. "I don't really think about it," Martin said. "When I get out there, I just go to work."
"When you come like that, you kind of know you want to take advantage of it," catcher Wil Nieves said. "You want to show them what you can do and just pitch your best. That's exactly what he did. He gave us his best."
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