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Martin gets Major League tips from Minor

@Sullivan_Ranger
February 14, 2020

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Brett Martin made the trip every weekday -- Monday through Friday -- for the entire offseason, a one-hour drive south from Morristown, Tenn., to the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville. The Rangers’ lefty reliever had good reason to run up the mileage. “I don’t think there

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Brett Martin made the trip every weekday -- Monday through Friday -- for the entire offseason, a one-hour drive south from Morristown, Tenn., to the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville.

The Rangers’ lefty reliever had good reason to run up the mileage.

“I don’t think there is a whole lot to do in Morristown,” said Knoxville resident Mike Minor.

Actually, Davy Crockett grew up around Morristown, but even so...

“It tells me Brett Martin is a smart kid,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said.

Certainly, Martin was smart enough to work out with an All-Star left-handed pitcher and soak up as much information from him as possible. That’s how Martin spent his winter, meeting up with Minor and a few others to throw at the university’s indoor facility.

“It was a lot of fun,” Martin said. “I really enjoyed it. Just being around a veteran guy, watching his work ethic, how he goes about it. Getting up early was the toughest part, but give me a couple of cups of coffee and I’m good to go.”

Minor was on board with helping a young pitcher still trying to find his way in the Major Leagues. Martin, who appeared in 51 games last year, has a chance to be an impact setup reliever for Texas, and the Rangers think he might have a future as a starter.

“I think he is really talented,” Minor said. “I think he has the mental makeup to be in the big leagues, to be here and stay here. He’s driven, he’s humble. He has all the attributes to be here. That’s why I like being around him.”

The two played catch every day and their conversations invariably turned to the art of pitching.

“That’s what really helped me,” Martin said. “He was able to see some things I really couldn’t feel myself. Maybe if I had one arm slot for a fastball and the changeup was different, he would say, ‘Get your arm slot up for the changeup, the same as the fastball.’”

This is why Woodward made it a point to tell his young pitchers to learn as much as they can from the veterans on the Texas staff.

“Brett and I, we started doing that last year [at the] end of the season,” Minor said. “Attacking hitters on both sides of the plate and what [pitches] to throw. I felt he got into a routine, throwing the same pitches in the same counts. He was throwing the [sinking fastball] on one side of the plate and the [regular fastball] on one side of the plate. I feel like the hitters, once they get the data on you for a full season, they know what to look for.”

Apparently so. Martin’s fastball averaged 94 mph last season and opponents hit .329 off it. They hit .207 off the slider. Opponents also hit .250 off Martin when he was working the left side corners of the plate. They hit .350 off him on the lower right third of the plate and .625 on the upper right third.

This is what a veteran can pick up on more quickly than an inexperienced pitcher.

“Minor is like the ultimate professional,” Woodward said. “He’s very smart, he understands how to [make a] game plan, he knows to attack opposing hitters and learn from things that happen in a game. The physical shape he is in is second to none. I encourage our young lefties to chase him around.”

The Rangers also sent young left-handers Joe Palumbo, Kolby Allard and Brock Burke to Knoxville to work out with Minor and Martin for a week. Palumbo came from New York while Allard lives in California and Burke in Colorado. Their trips were worth it.

“They just asked me [and] I said sure,” Minor said. “I think it’s fun just being around everybody, working out together, seeing how we do things. Just kind of hung out.”

And that’s just a good way for young pitchers to spend the offseason.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.