Martínez appreciates chance to stick on A's staff

Two starts in, No. 21 prospect shows signs of promise as rotation option

July 1st, 2022

SEATTLE -- Ever since Daulton Jefferies was lost for the season due to thoracic outlet syndrome back in May, the A’s have essentially been holding tryouts to determine who can fill the fifth starter slot on a more permanent basis. Adrián Martínez is the latest pitcher to receive an audition.

Martínez left a strong first impression when he joined the A’s as their 27th man for a doubleheader in Detroit on May 10, tossing 5 1/3 scoreless innings to pick up a win in his Major League debut. Called back up Thursday for a second big league start, however, the right-hander encountered a bit more adversity this time around.

In an 8-6 loss to the Mariners at T-Mobile Park, Martínez was tagged for seven runs on seven hits, including two home runs, and two walks with three strikeouts across 4 2/3 innings.

Some of the qualities Martínez displayed in his first start did carry over to the second. He showcased a fastball that maxed out at 95.2 mph and a deceptive changeup. He worked at a quick pace and pounded the zone with 52 of his 83 pitches going for strikes. He got ahead in the count often with 15 first-pitch strikes to his 23 batters faced. But it was within those two-strike counts, though, where Martínez was getting beat, including his two-out homer surrendered to Dylan Moore on a 3-2 sinker left on the inner half of the plate.

“I like the way he competes,” manager Mark Kotsay said of Martínez. “The key through that game was he had a lot of guys with two strikes that he didn’t put guys away. I think it’s a different night if he’s able to execute with two strikes.”

Leading to Martínez’s lack of finishing hitters could have been his inability to miss bats. In that May start against the Tigers, he generated 11 whiffs (swing and misses) on 79 pitches. Of his 83 pitches on Thursday night, Martínez produced only one whiff on a swinging strikeout of Carlos Santana to end the third inning.

There were also instances Martínez could use as a learning experience, like his final pitch of the night. Facing Abraham Toro in a 4-4 tie with two on and two outs in the fifth, the rookie worked a quick 0-2 count on the Mariners second baseman, only to leave a changeup over the plate that was slapped into left field for a go-ahead RBI single.

“He was one pitch away really from getting out of that fifth inning,” Kotsay said. “That situation, 0-2, maybe [Martínez] goes up before he goes down. Ultimately, Toro did a nice job of staying on that pitch and utilizing the opposite field.”

His final line also doesn’t fully reflect the outing Martínez had. Though he was responsible for the two runners on base after his departure, two additional runs were charged to his record one batter later when Skye Bolt was unable to reel in a line drive hit by Cal Raleigh off left-hander A.J. Puk. It went down as a triple that basically ended up a three-run Little League-style homer when the ball was misplayed at third base.

While the ball hit by Raleigh had a 35% catch probability according to Statcast, Kotsay said it was a play that Bolt, who was reinstated from the injured list earlier in the day, usually makes. It was a moment that proved costly, as Ramón Laureano later crushed the second of his two homers on the day in the ninth inning to cut the deficit to two runs.

“He took off and I think he thought the ball was going to be over his left shoulder. It ended up being over his right,” Kotsay said. “Skye makes that play the majority of the time. He got his glove on it. Just didn’t go in the glove there. It’s probably a different game if we make that play.”

With one “good” start and one “bad” start now under his belt, Martínez, acquired this spring from the Padres in the Sean Manaea deal and rated Oakland’s No. 21 prospect per MLB Pipeline, will likely get another opportunity next week when the club returns to the Coliseum. Like many on this rebuilding A’s squad, it’ll be another chance to establish himself in the big leagues. Not only as a rotation member for 2022, but also as a possible piece of Oakland’s long-term plans.

“I think my first game against Detroit, I felt a lot more nervous, like any player. This game, I felt better,” Martínez said. “The energy was good. That fifth inning, things didn’t go my way but I’m going to keep pushing forward. I’m just going to keep working for the next time out.”