Martinez bidding for Braves’ final bullpen spot

VIERA, Fla. – A year ago, manager Freddi Gonzalez’s Marlins didn’t have a spot for reliever Cristhian Martinez on their major league roster.

Today, Gonzalez’s Braves are glad that was the case.

Martinez had five strikeouts in two innings Sunday during the Braves’ 5-0 win against the Washington Nationals, continuing to make a strong case for inclusion in the opening-day bullpen.

Starter Tommy Hanson worked three crisp innings (one strikeout, one walk) and combined with four relievers on a two-hit shutout as the Braves won for the sixth time in their past seven games.

“Every time we run him out there he runs up zeroes,” Gonzalez said of Martinez, who struck out five of the seven batters he faced on his 29th birthday, including slugger Jayson Werth on a called third strike in the fourth inning.

Laynce Nix’s groundball single with one out in the fifth inning was the first hit by the Nationals. Martinez struck out the next two batters, Danny Espinosa and Michael Aubrey, both looking.

In three spring appearances, Martinez has allowed two hits and one walk in 5-2/3 scoreless innings.

With six bullpen jobs presumably set – right-handers Peter Moylan, Craig Kimbrel, Scott Linebrink; lefties Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty, George Sherrill – Martinez could be competing with Scott Proctor, Anthony Varvaro, Juan Abreu and Steve Marek for one spot.

Martinez has more versatility than those others, which his former Marlins manager values. (Gonzalez was fired as Marlins manager in June, and hired as Braves manager in October.)

“He can give you two innings. He can give you three innings. He can spot-start for you,” said Gonzalez, who had Martinez on his 2009 team. “He can be the guy in that can really save the bullpen at any given time, because he throws strikes. And he’s not afraid to challenge hitters.

“He’s a guy that you don’t have to use for five days, six days, then all of a sudden you get into a situation where, in a long rain delay, you can lose your starter and run him out there and feel real, real good about it.”

A year ago, the Marlins optioned Martinez to Triple-A late in spring training, then designated him for assignment April 3. The Braves claimed him off waivers five days later, and Martinez split time between the major and Triple-A Gwinnett.

His stats in 18 appearances for the Braves weren’t too impressive – 4.58 ERA and .272 opponents’ average, with 28 hits and 14 runs allowed in 26 innings.

However, before being charged with four runs in two-thirds of an inning in his last game Sept. 1 against Philadelphia, he had a 2.30 ERA and .220 opponents’ average in 11 appearances over three months, with one homer, four walks and 13 strikeouts in 15-2/3 innings.

As a Marlins rookie in 2009, Martinez had a 5.13 ERA in 15 appearances, including a 3.86 ERA and .224 opponents’ average in 10 games after the All-Star break.

26 comments Add your comment

Don B

March 6th, 2011
5:33 pm

So what’s the big deal with being 1st……

Mcmann

March 6th, 2011
5:33 pm

man man man man man….

boy is our bullpen deep
1-12 were unhittable
were gonna make the playoffs for shizable

count_schemula

March 6th, 2011
5:36 pm

From what I’ve seen, I like Martinez.

Braves Fan

March 6th, 2011
5:36 pm

First Again!!

Braves Fan

March 6th, 2011
5:37 pm

This guy looked really good today. He was lights out. Think the Nationals felt the same way.

Braves Paisan

March 6th, 2011
5:37 pm

He should be ahead of the other three for that last spot on versatility alone.

mountain_jim

March 6th, 2011
5:41 pm

He and I share the same b’day. Hope he makes the team. :)

Steve

March 6th, 2011
5:44 pm

You “first” dorks really need a life.

Largo

March 6th, 2011
5:45 pm

I sure like the movement on Martinez’s pitches.

Him Tudson

March 6th, 2011
5:46 pm

He’s got the experience, has pitched in long relief before, and still wants the job; I say give him first dibs.

mathman

March 6th, 2011
5:50 pm

Looks like the battle for the last bullpen spot is over. Martinez is the man.

Now, the only battle looks to be for the 5th SP. Beachy, Minor, and maybe Rodrigo Lopez if the two rookies fall flat.

Looks like Gwinnett is going to have an outstanding bullpen: Abreu, Marek, and Ascencio to possibly close; Hyde, Gearin, Varvaro, and maybe Broadway in the pen.

Starters: Beachy or Minor; Cordier, Redmond, Sullivan, and Ortegano.

The Miss team is going to be loaded for starters: Teheran, R. Delgado, Hoover, and Oberholtzer and maybe Vizcaino if he doesn’t start in Lynchburg. Future is loaded for the Braves in pitching.

Braves Paisan

March 6th, 2011
5:52 pm

By the way, I was at that September 1st game last year, and, without going to dig out my scorecard for it, I vaguely remember that he pitched better than his line. Squeezed strike zone, a dink, bleeder, or bloop here or there, something …

1eyedJack

March 6th, 2011
5:58 pm

jim

March 6th, 2011
6:04 pm

Martinez, Marek, and Proctor may all be better than Linebrink at this stage of their careers. Moylan does not seem to be the same pitcher he was two years ago and Sherril is a LOOGY. The bullpen may be strong at the top and bottom to start the season and shaky in the middle.

Deedle Nick

March 6th, 2011
6:07 pm

@ Steve

That’s because there’s no minum age limit for commenting. A lot of school kids here on weekends too.

Deedle Nick

March 6th, 2011
6:09 pm

@ Deedle Nick

‘minimum’ ;-)

justin1

March 6th, 2011
6:13 pm

Martinez, Venters, Kimbrell, Moylan, O’Flehrety,Sherrill, Linebrink

mathman

March 6th, 2011
6:19 pm

Yes, 1 eyedJack, Lynchburg. The Braves high A team will be in Lynchburg, not Myrtle Beach. That eye, doesn’t read as well as it used to.

shmoe

March 6th, 2011
6:24 pm

you were at martinez’ game?

i’ve been to some of the most infamous games in recent braves history. 2010 nlds game 3, and big unit perfect game. was also at the famous game in which #10 went dingers with the ol switcheroo against the mets for the 2-1 win. great crowd in the nlds though. hope that continues.

Scott

March 6th, 2011
6:37 pm

I say Vizcaino closes, send Kimbrel to AAA, cut Proctor, let Martinez have his spot, give Beachy 5th spot, send Minor to AAA to work on his off speed, and have Lopez be long reliever.

Then, trade a couple Ps for a solid bullpen guy.

thunderbull56 (he of the moderater)

March 6th, 2011
6:50 pm

Tell ‘em Don B. Left, right, left.Free advice,knock somebody down every now an then.Don’t be afraid to *iss the other team off.Away,away,away,away,only earned us 1(one) World Series title.Yeah, but they’re gonna throw at my guys.Not when they know you are relentless in your pursuit.Keep at it DOB,enjoy a good cigar and save us from your usurpers as much as you can.From their blogosheres looks like they work for USA TODAY.

Braves Paisan

March 6th, 2011
7:07 pm

I am thinking we need to wait and see how the competitions go a week before teams break camp, when only major league players or the best AAA ones are pitching and hitting.

Deedle Nick

March 6th, 2011
7:17 pm

@ Braves Paisan

Good thinking! That week will be close to the bottom line. Between now and then the games are mostly entertainment for us bloggers.

Deedle Nick

March 6th, 2011
7:26 pm

Jus thunk sumptin – This is ST for blogging too. The smart folks here will keep learning the game and all the ‘FIRSTS’ will keep breeding.

David O'Brien

March 6th, 2011
7:29 pm

Stynes, people are probably wondering how you got on the field for that photo (he paid the big bucks for the sweeet batting-practice vantage behind the cage, like they also have at Turner Field during the season).

Good meeting you, dude.

BFChris26

March 6th, 2011
10:17 pm

I live in FL and have been watching a lot of Marlins games. When Martinez pitched for the big club, I saw a lot of promise in him. I also have feeds to Marlins minor league games too and when he pitched for their minor league teams, he showed the same promise that he showed while on the big club.

I’ve been one of more vocal supporters of his. He can be wild at times, but it’s few and far between as he has improved his control a lot. He’s perfect for the long relief spot, spot start and as DOB said in this article, rain delays.

I am glad Braves have him and I hope he does make the team out of spring training decisively.

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