All eyes on flamethrowing prospect Martin
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A year ago, Hyun-Jin Ryu couldn't pick up a baseball without the eyes of an entire organization glued to him.
On Field 2 on Tuesday, Ryu threw live batting practice for the first time this spring and, other than a couple of reporters from Korea, nobody was watching.
Instead, the eyes of the organization were at Field 1, watching hard-throwing left-handed prospect Jarret Martin look very capable and in command against Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford and Juan Uribe. The audience included general manager Ned Colletti and his posse, manager Don Mattingly and most of the staff.
"I was kind of aware of them. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't," said Martin, a 24-year-old from Bakersfield, Calif., who grew up a Dodgers fan and was acquired at the 2011 Winter Meetings from Baltimore in the Dana Eveland trade. "I was comfortable with it. It was the first time I've faced a lineup of Major League hitters and I was looking forward to it. It's a chance to show myself. You shouldn't be here unless you want to face the best."
A 19th-round Draft pick, Martin has struck out 351 in 348 professional innings, but also has walked 224. He said he made a mechanical "epiphany" during instructional league after the 2012 season by tinkering with his hand separation that improved his timing. He made a mental breakthrough five starts into last season at Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga after a chat with pitching coach Matt Herges.
"I just decided I was athletic enough to get the baseball across the plate, athletic enough and competitive enough," Martin said. "I started thinking about throwing the ball over the plate and stopped thinking about my mechanics on the mound. I'm aggressive, not low-key. I'm in-your-face, attack. It's part of the transformation I went through from starter to reliever."
That transformation came after 14 starts at Rancho Cucamonga and he was so effective in relief he was promoted to Double-A Chattanooga, where he walked 12 in 10 2/3 innings but posted a 1.69 ERA that earned him protection onto the Major League roster.
"What he does is hard to find," said Herges. "Mid-to-upper 90s with a potentially wipe-out slider. He realized last year he was fighting it. He needed to just go compete and that's when it clicked for him. It's like the fog lifted."