Phillies Stay or Go: Ethan Martin

Phillies Stay or Go: Ethan Martin

How can Phils improve rotation for 2014?

October 15, 2013, 12:00 pm
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Ethan Martin spent time in the Phillies' rotation and bullpen as a rookie, posting an ERA of 6.08 in 40 innings pitched. (USA Today Images)

PHILLIES STAY OR GO?

Monday: Roy Halladay
Tuesday: Carlos Ruiz
Wednesday: Kevin Frandsen
Thursday: Antonio Bastardo
Friday: John Mayberry, Jr.
Saturday: Kyle Kendrick
Sunday: Phillippe Aumont
Monday: Erik Kratz
Tuesday: Ethan Martin
Wednesday: Jimmy Rollins

The Phillies' first losing season since 2002 is sure to bring wholesale changes in the offseason. But who should stay and who should go? Over the next two weeks, we're asking that very question and putting players under the microscope.

Monday, we examined Erik Kratz (see story), and today we take a look at a right-handed arm.

Ethan Martin
Position: Right-handed starter/relief pitcher
Status: Arbitration eligible in 2016; under team control until 2019

Signature game of 2013
From Aug. 8 to Aug. 19, Martin tossed three straight starts of five or more innings and three or fewer runs while totaling 16 strikeouts and two wins.

Martin’s following start lasted just two-thirds of an inning before he was yanked after permitting three runs on three hits and three walks. The outing marked the shortest start by a Phillie (non-injury or weather related) since J.D. Durbin in 2007.

It also marked the start of Martin’s freefall from the rotation.

Season as a whole
Martin, a 24-year-old product of the 2012 Shane Victorino trade, reflected all the makings of a relief pitcher while auditioning as a starter.

Martin held opponents to a .200 batting average during his first time through the lineup in his first seven starts, striking out 23 of the 63 hitters he faced.

After the opposition had seen Martin once, it hit .324 off him with six homers and 15 walks, while the rookie punched out just 11 of 83 batters faced.

As his starts got deeper, Martin’s struggles were also apparent in his velocity. The righty’s first-inning fastball clocked at an average speed of 94.95 mph, but in the fifth, it dipped to 92.96 mph.

Martin would wear out, resulting in meltdowns once the fifth inning rolled around — an inning in which he owned a 15.75 ERA.

With that came Martin’s move to the ‘pen — a logical change that best suited his arm and repertoire. As a reliever, Martin posted a 3.86 ERA and .185 opponents’ batting average in seven games of work.

Stay or go
All of that doesn’t mean he won’t have a future as a big-league starter. Right now, nothing is sacrosanct in the Phillies' rotation outside of Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.

Martin seems like a competitive kid who wants to learn. Let him do so under the tutelage of the Phils’ veteran arms and new pitching coach and see what role he grows into as a pitcher.

Regardless of whether Martin starts or relieves, he should be in the Phillies’ system next season.

What they’re saying ...
“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. 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.

“[Roy 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. Ethan definitely has the heart and the mound presence.”

-- Former Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee after the team announced Martin’s move to the bullpen in early September

“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.

“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.”

-- Martin on what Halladay said to him after the rookie heard he was being placed in the bullpen