Martis rising through Nationals' ranks
Unheralded acquisition picks up save in Futures Game
NEW YORK -- During his four years as general manager of the Nationals, Jim Bowden has traded reliever Mike Stanton twice for Minor Leaguers. On Sept. 29, 2005, Stanton was dealt to the Red Sox for pitchers Rhys Taylor and Yader Peralta. Neither player turned out to be a prospect for Washington.
Stanton was back with the Nationals the following season, only to be traded to the Giants for right-hander Shairon Martis on July 29, 2006. It turned out that Martis is a keeper for Washington. So much so, that Martis played for the World Team in the XM All-Star Futures Game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday.
Before the game, Martis was relaxed, sitting by his locker. He spoke softly and was willing to talk about any topic involving himself. However, his arm spoke loudest in the game. Martis, 21, entered the contest in the ninth inning, picking up a save as the World Team blanked the U.S. Team, 3-0.
Martis got off to a slow start by giving up a ground-rule double, but he retired three of the next four hitters to close out the game.
Martis received the game ball and it was already in a case. Although he's a starter, Martis knew beforehand that he would close the game if the World Team had the lead.
"I was trying to locate the ball and I got the job done," Martis said. "Since we got to Yankee Stadium, the coaching staff had a meeting. They told me I would close the game. If we were losing, I was going to come in the eighth inning and pitch to two batters."
For the season, Martis is a combined 4-5 with 3.94 ERA for Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Columbus. He has 78 strikeouts in 98 1/3 innings. But what opened a lot of eyes was that Martis added velocity to his fastball. The righty's fastball clocked in at 94 mph this year after registering in the high 80s last season.
It helped that Martis changed his mechanics. He is now using the lower half of his body a lot more and is no longer rushing to throw his pitches.
"We are excited about his development," Bowden said. "This is a guy with three plus pitches. He has a great frame. He goes right at them. He has always been one of our favorites. He is already in Triple-A at age 21. This is a Major League starting pitcher. He is going to pitch in the big leagues and be successful."
Despite the increase in velocity on his fastball, Martis prefers to get ground-ball outs instead of strikeouts.
"Whenever I throw, I try to keep my team in the ballgame," Martis said. "I try to keep the team close. I try to get as many ground balls as I can get."
Martis started making a name for himself in the World Baseball Classic as a Giants prospect. While representing The Netherlands, he pitched a seven-inning no-hitter against Panama. The game was stopped because of the 10-run rule.
Prior to that start, Martis hadn't played an inning in the World Baseball Classic and was surprised to learn from manager Robert Eenhoorn the previous day that he would pitch the final game. Martis vowed The Netherlands would not lose another game, and he was true to his word.
Martis didn't realize he was throwing a no-hitter until infielder Yurendell De Caster, now a Nationals Minor Leaguer, told him in the sixth inning.
"He looked at the score and Yurendell said, 'No way, Martis, you are throwing a no-hitter,'" Martis said. "That was a big thing for me that I did it for my country."
When Martis returns to Columbus, he will be playing with his childhood friend, Roger Bernadina, who played in 10 Major League games with the Nationals before returning to Triple-A. He's had problems with the bat, but Bernadina's cup of coffee in the Majors has motivated Martis to continue to pitch well. Martis may get a call up in September.
"The day Roger got called up, I said, 'I have to be there also,'" Martis said. "When I talked to him, he would say, 'You should be here.' That's why I'm excited to play harder."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.