Hickory Crawdads opening night starter Brett Martin had a good enough year in 2015 to earn a promotion to class High-A High Desert. The 20-year-old lefty posted a 3.49 ERA in 95.1 innings with a 1.24 WHIP. But South Atlantic League hitters hit .265 off the all-star pitcher, including a robust .298 in the second half. A pair of DL stints in the second half frustrated Martin and stunted the momentum he was trying to keep together after the first half. However, Martin came back in the postseason and threw four shutout innings in his lone start and helped snare a 2-0 advantage during the SAL Championship Series.
The numbers-game up the Texas Rangers chain perhaps worked against Martin, but he was quick to admit that there are things he wants to correct returns before moving on to high-A. The native of Morristown, Tenn. talks about what’s on his to-do list during his second stop in Hickory.
Here you are back again. When I saw the roster, probably the name I was most surprised to see was Brett Martin. Where you surprised to come back here?
Martin: Not really. I kind of figured that I’d start here. There’s still some things that I need to work on and get cleaned up before I move up anywhere else.
What are those things you are working on?
Martin: Being able to execute pitches in different counts. For instance, like an 0-0 curveball, if I can execute that and get that over the plate for a first-pitch strike. And seeing how I work out of 2-0 counts, when I fall behind, and seeing how I can get myself out of that hole and come back and either get a groundball out or a strikeout.
You almost had two halves of a season (in 2015), essentially. The first half you had the strong start and made the All-Star game. I don’t know if you wore down. I know that you had a couple of nagging injuries. Take me through the two halves. Are you looking for a bit more consistency?
Martin: Coming out of spring training last year, I had all of my mechanics down and I felt really good and carried that into the season for that first half. What got me were those injuries. It broke it up for me where I couldn’t stay consistent. I’d be hurt for a month or so and then I’d have to come back and try to figure it all out again after not pitching for a month. So, that didn’t really help. Towards the end of the season, I felt like I got it back together pretty well, for being hurt twice and being out for that amount of time.
If I remember right, you were working on changeup last year. The fastball was pretty consistent and you were working on the curveball, as well. Where is the changeup at this point from where it was last year?
Martin: I feel like I can throw it in any count, honestly. Whether that’s for a strike or not, it just depends. Some days it’s good; some days it’s not. As long as I can get swing-and-misses, that’s all that really matters. I’d say to a righty, it’d be an out pitch for me – it’s going down and away – and even to a righty, it’d kind of look like an inside fastball, but slower and it’s breaking. I guess it’s going to become a weapon this year and I’m excited to see how I can use it against these hitters.
When I talked with Collin Wiles last year, he talked about being more consistent, being able to go 6-7 innings, occasionally eight innings. He seemed to find that hump for him. Is that where you are at this point in your career, where you’re looking to go consistently six or seven innings?
Martin: Every night I go out I expect to go seven. I hope to go nine, but we all now that’s not going to happen every night. But, at least six or seven for sure. That’s what I want to focus on, getting deep into games and doing what I can to help the team.
What’s the biggest thing you took from the offseason that you’ll look to take into the season here?
Martin: I guess during spring training, just being focused more, as in paying attention to myself on the mound and feeling what I’m doing wrong and what’s not going right for me. And then going back and sitting down and figuring out, “Hey, this is what I need to fix so I can go back out there this next inning.” And being more focused on my mechanics and myself to improve as the game goes on.
What’s the biggest thing you have an awareness of in fixing those mechanics, that maybe you didn’t have in the brain last year?
Martin: (Jose) Trevino last year was a great catcher and he helped me out a tremendous amount. Just me and him working together, that’s really, really helped me. It’s going to be tough not having him back there this year. But Chuck’s (Moorman) a great catcher and he’s just as smart as Trevino and I feel like he’s going to help me immediately. That’s what Trevino I would do in between innings. He and I would sit in between innings and he would tell me, “Hey man, your front side is falling off. Stay on me.” And Chuck’s the exact same way.
Now with working with a new catcher, do you feel like it’s more on you now? Do you have a good working relationship with Moorman and Sanchez?
Martin: We all get along great. I have full confidence in them and whatever they call, I’m going to throw down. They know the game and they know what situations call for what. So, I’ll trust them with all my heart and I’m really am excited to work with them.
What have the Rangers told you as far as what they are looking for you to do here before you step up?
Martin: The 0-0 curveballs and to see how I work out of 2-0 counts. There’s some other stuff that I’m going to be working on as well. So, I just need to take care of that first and then we’ll go from there.
Will there be new pitches that you’ll add to the repertoire, or will you simply work at strengthening what you have?
Martin: Fastball, curve, change. I haven’t been working on a slider or anything like that. Just focus on those three and keeping the ball down and working off the fastball.
Do you have the expectation that you’ll be here most of the year, or whatever goes, goes?
Martin: It depends on how I do. I mean, it could be one month, two months, three months, or the all-star break, I don’t know. If I can take of business, then I guess I’ll be out of here. It all depends on me.
You’ve got you, Dillon, Jonathan Hernandez, Swanson, Benjamin? What should we look forward to as far as the rotation goes?
Martin: Like last year, I expect us to form a brotherhood and always pushing each other to get better and helping each other with what we’re seeing during each other’s bullpen and saying, “Hey, you need to think about mixing this in.” I expect us to be a close-knit group.