He was 21 years old when he appeared on the 2009 roster after four seasons in the Venezuelan Summer League. In those seasons, he had appeared in 51 games with 16 starts and 18 games finished and his ERA increased every year. He wasn't really a starter and he wasn't really a reliever.
In 2009, he appeared in 22 games for the G-Stros pitching 40 innings all out of the bullpen. He struck out just 25 batters and allowing a WHIP of 1.50. These are the numbers of a pitcher that are likely to be released. But something clicked after this year because his stats started improving after this season.
In 2010, Martinez pitched in Tri Cities. He reduced his walks from 14 to 11 while pitching 65 2/3 innings. His strike outs jumped to 57. He also made 10 starts out of his 17 appearances.
In 2011, he went back to being a primary bullpen pitcher appearing in 37 games, with just five of those as starts. In 66 2/3 innings pitched, his strike outs regressed to 44 and his walks rose to 17 while he faced tougher competition. Three of the five starts came at the end of the season. Which was a bit of foreshadowing.
In 2012, Martinez for the first time in his minor league career was truly a starting pitcher. In Lancaster, known as a pitchers purgatory, Martinez made 26 starts plus one bullpen appearance. All of a sudden, after not throwing more than 66 2/3 innings in any season in his career, he threw 160 innings in 2012. His strike outs per nine was a respectable 6.4 and his walks per nine went down to 1.9.
He made a strong enough impression that he appeared in three major league spring training games this year before the season. He was then assigned to AA Corpus Christi where he has made a name for himself while surrounded by well known top prospects. This season, he is 9-0 with a 2.35 ERA in 61 1/3 innings pitched. His walks per nine is down to 1.8 and his WHIP is 0.995. All while facing tougher competition.
Today, there was a feature in the Chronicle about Martinez and Jake Buchanan. Here are some of the quotes that highlight Martinez and what is behind his break out season.
Pitching Coach Gary Ruby:
“David has just been phenomenal.... He’s up to the 90-92 (mph) range but his slider right now is as good as anybody’s anywhere. He’s got a good changeup. He’s working on a little bit of a split(finger) for down the road. He works at a great pace, a quick tempo, and he just attacks the bottom of the zone.”Manager Keith Bodie:
“He’s kind of a darkhorse. … You watch and you say, ‘Man, that ball had some life to it. Man, that ball sunk. Man, they took a bad swing at that breaking ball,’ ” Brodie said. “But they keep doing it and they don’t get a good look at him. His arm slot, from wherever he’s throwing, everything looks like it’s the same."The season David Martinez is putting up highlights the challenges of player development. You never know when something is going to click and a player just takes off. We will be watching to see what happens as he continues to develop.