Martin adjusting to new role as reliever

February 28th, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Might a shift to the bullpen be just the thing to get right-hander ’s career back on track? We’ll soon find out -- the D-backs have decided to use Martin out of the bullpen this year.

Martin was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Zack Greinke to the Astros at the Trade Deadline in 2019. Right-hander J.B. Bukauskas, infielder Josh Rojas and first baseman Seth Beer were also in the deal, but Martin was the highest-rated prospect and the one the D-backs were most excited about.

At the time of the trade, Martin was recovering from Tommy John surgery, and he made his D-backs debut in 2021, appearing in five games (three starts) and struggling with a 10.69 ERA.

Last year, he appeared in seven games (two starts) and had a 4.84 ERA. It was then that Arizona decided to give him a try full-time in the bullpen.

“We told him. He sat on that all offseason,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “He’s ready for this challenge. It’s something that I want him to accept.”

While he would certainly prefer to start, Martin has embraced his new role this spring.

“So far it’s been good,” Martin said. “Just trying to adjust to getting ready quicker, but I did it in college. So it's one of those things where I'm trying to go back to doing what I did then, and it hasn't been too bad of a transition.”

Whereas a starting pitcher has to work his way through a lineup multiple times and often needs at least three pitches, a reliever can get away with throwing just two pitches, especially when one of them is a fastball that reaches 97 mph.

“You watch his stuff tick up,” D-backs GM Mike Hazen said of Martin as a reliever. “You can shorten down the arsenal a little bit, not having to grind through lineups two or three times necessarily. It'll be interesting. I'm interested to see how he does. He's got good stuff. He's had his sort of up and down, sort of back and forth with the Minor Leagues and the Major Leagues, trying to cut his teeth on various places, and hopefully he can put that into play. He looks like he's in great shape, and I've heard that the initial live BPs were really good.”

Martin struck out one and threw a scoreless fifth inning Monday against the Cubs in his first outing of the Cactus League, and he felt good about it afterward.

The struggles of the past few years have taken a toll on Martin’s confidence, something he spent time addressing during the winter.

“On the mental side, I feel like I’ve worn myself down overthinking a lot, trying to do too much instead of simplifying things,” Martin said. “So, just getting back to the attack mode kind of mindset. I feel like I've found that again, which has been a nice feeling and makes things a lot easier.”

A right elbow impingement in 2021 and a strained right shoulder last year have limited him the past two seasons. So in addition to getting back into a good mindset this winter, Martin made some adjustments in his workout program.

“The main goal is to stay healthy and to put myself in a really good situation to stay in the big leagues,” Martin said. “This offseason, I did a lot of shoulder strengthening, because I feel like it stems a lot from shoulder tiredness over the span of the year. That’s the one thing I've been focused on in the offseason, even now in Spring Training.”

There’s plenty of opportunity for Martin in the bullpen with a few spots open. Whether he grabs one of them and how the transition to the bullpen goes bear watching over the next month.