Ethan Martin's opponents have hit .324 with 13 extra-base hits and 15 walks after his first time through the batting order. (USA Today Images)
UPDATED: 5:45 p.m.
So maybe the numbers don’t lie when it comes to hard-throwing right-hander Ethan Martin.
The first time Martin gets through the lineup in his seven starts in the big leagues, the opposition is batting .200 and he has 23 strikeouts against the 63 hitters he’s faced. But the second and third times through the order, all bets are off.
After the opposition has seen Martin once, it is batting .324 off him with six homers and 15 walks. Martin also has just 11 strikeouts against the 83 hitters he’s faced.
So with three weeks left in the season, the Phillies have decided to move Martin, 24, to the bullpen starting with Saturday’s game. To take Martin’s spot in the rotation will be righty Tyler Cloyd.
“I told somebody the other day I think he’s a gem. I think he’s really going to be a gem in this league,” pitching coach Rich Dubee said in making the announcement. “Right now, he’s got a lot of innings in and we want to protect him from the workload and also see what he looks like in the bullpen and see what his arm plays like out of that.”
Martin is 2-4 with a 6.90 ERA in seven starts, covering 30 innings, for the Phillies. He has 34 strikeouts and 21 walks. In 21 starts at Triple A, Martin was 11-5 with a 4.12 ERA in 115 innings. In his 28 combined starts, Martin has worked through the sixth inning just four times.
Just as in the majors, Martin’s fastball played big in the minors and by moving him to the bullpen for the rest of the season, Dubee and manager Ryne Sandberg are hoping to maximize his repertoire.
“I’m not afraid to put him in the eighth inning right now,” Dubee said. “Again, this is all trial and error. It will be interesting to see how he handles it. His stuff has played phenomenally well the first time through a lineup. And again, I don’t know if it’s because of fatigue, I don’t know if it’s because he burns up too much energy, but his stuff shortens up the second and third time through. I do think this guy is a gem. He will play some big role on a pitching staff. It will be a nice little change to take a different look at him.”
The Phillies have been successful in the past in moving minor league starters to bullpen roles. Ryan Madson started 123 games in the minors, but just 18 in eight full seasons in the majors.
Of course, there is no guarantee that Martin will remain in the bullpen. Dubee said he was a little worried about Martin’s frame of mind after getting beat up in his previous starts, which was the impetus for the move.
“We went through it the other day. I told him, ‘Listen, it’s not fun getting beat up,’” Dubee said. “But I told him, like the staff in Florida when I had those young kids, [Ryan] Dempster, [Brad] Penny and those guys, I said, ‘Go back, in today’s world it’s easy to do, go back and pull up [Greg] Maddux and [John] Smoltz and [Tom] Glavine and all the good pitchers in this game and pull up their numbers the first couple years they pitched.’”
Dubee said Roy Halladay overheard the conversation and gave Martin a baseball card with his stats on the back. In 2000, Halladay had a 10.64 ERA, which was the worst in the majors for pitchers with at least 50 innings. Halladay also was famously sent back to Single A and had to work his way all the way back.
Chances are Martin won’t be going back to Single A any time soon.
“[Halladay] wrote a little note on his card to Ethan to remind this kid that you might be taking your lumps now, but there’s a lot of good that’s going to come down the road in the future if you continue to learn, continue to have the heart to go out there,” Dubee said. “Ethan definitely has the heart and the mound presence.”
Martin said Halladay’s message really resonated with him.
“Dubee said after the last couple of starts, ‘A lot of people have gone through this.’ It doesn’t really click in until Halladay came over and said, ‘Hey, do you know who holds the record for highest ERA with over 50 innings pitched in the big leagues in a year?’ I said no, and he said, ‘Well, I did.’ Then he came and handed me the card with a 10-point-something ERA and had it highlighted,” Martin said.
“When you look at that … I’m still upset with how I’ve done, but it makes you say, ‘OK, there’s still a chance I can still be that starter or whatever I have to do.’ I’m just taking that in, and once I’m down there (in the bullpen), I’ll come in for an inning or whatever they want me to do and give it all I have.”
Odds and ends
Halladay is scheduled to make his next start in Wednesday against the Padres, however, Dubee revealed that the pitcher is a bit under the weather with a virus. … Ten of the Phillies’ last 18 games have been decided by one run. The Phillies are 8-2 in those games. … The Phillies are 3-22 in the last 25 games in which they have scored three runs or less. When the Phillies get at least four runs in a game, they are 47-19.