'It's been a long journey': Martin returns to the mound

March 13th, 2024

PEORIA, Ariz. -- As looked around the visitors' clubhouse Tuesday afternoon at the Peoria Sports Complex, something dawned on him.

"This is the first non-Salt River locker room I've been in in a long time," Martin said.

Players rarely cherish the opportunity to play in a road game during Spring Training, but Tuesday's inning against the Padres was significant for Martin. With his mother, wife and two children in the stands, the 28-year-old returned to the mound for the first time since last March 15, when a tear in the lat tendon under his right shoulder ended his 2023 season before it began.

"I didn't sleep last night," Martin said. "I felt like I was making my debut again. It was a really good feeling. It's been a long journey. Today was just the first step of what's to come."

Martin allowed one hit and threw a strikeout in his inning, showing off a good fastball and solid secondary stuff in the process. He admitted that after a wild first pitch during his warmup, he thought to himself, "Uh oh," but after getting an out on his first pitch of the inning, he could settle down.

"I was warming up and my freaking heart was going like a thousand beats per minute," Martin said. "It was nice to have that nervy, coming-into-a-game situation even though it is a Spring Training game. … Once that first pitch was over with, I calmed down and was able to get back and execute what I was trying to do."

Manager Torey Lovullo called Martin's return to the mound a "great moment" for the D-backs, but more importantly, for the pitcher.

"The fastball looked like it had really good ride and carry," Lovullo said. The secondary stuff -- I'm sure he's still going to fine-tune -- Tucker Barnhart said it was real electric stuff. When you're coming back off an arm injury, and you're letting go the way he was, there's a lot that went right."

Martin was a top-five prospect in the Astros organization when he was traded to the D-backs as part of the package for Zack Greinke at the 2019 Trade Deadline. He had undergone Tommy John surgery in the weeks before the deal, which cost him the second half of that season and all of 2020. After shuttling between the Majors and Triple-A in 2021 and '22, Martin was converted into a reliever before 2023.

An impressive spring last year had Martin trending toward making the team, but the injury – which ultimately led to season-ending surgery – ended that hope.

"It's almost unfair; you go back 12 months, he was going to be on our team," Lovullo said. "That's a carrot that's dangling in front of him. He knows what he has to get back, so we'll get an opportunity to unwrap him a little bit more. He's ready for this opportunity and we're all excited for him."

It remains to be seen whether Martin has enough time to be ready for Opening Day, but based on his debut Tuesday, the right-hander will likely have an opportunity to make an impact at some point this season.

"It was a really big hurdle," Martin said of his return. "I felt good after my [live batting practices], but you don't really know until you get in that game-like situation. For me, today I felt like I'm getting back to where I need to be."

"He got back on the mound and executed pitches, fearlessly went out there and took care of business," Lovullo said. "We're all proud of him for that. It's been a long journey."