Martin's future remains to be seen, but his present looks good
Routine is one of baseball’s most imperative elements, especially for a pitcher. From workouts to repeating motions within deliveries to maintaining a healthy diet, continuity is key. Low-A Lake County right-handed pitcher Josh Martin recognizes the importance of such consistency.
The 23-year-old native of Enterprise, Alabama attended Samford University in Birmingham, where he pitched as a starter. He was originally selected in the 25th round of the 2011 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, but did not sign. A year later, the Cleveland Indians drafted the 6’5”, 230-pound right-hander in the 10th round before he was assigned to the short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
Martin was moving from his apartment in Birmingham after regionals at Samford when he learned the Indians drafted him. He said he had a small inkling of the routine of the draft given his experience in 2011, but was still unsure of where he’d end up.
“I knew I had a pretty good season, so I expected to be somewhere in the mix but being a senior, you never really can tell where you’re going to go or what the results of it are going to be,” Martin said. “Take whatever you can get.”
At Mahoning Valley, Martin went 4-1 with a 4.14 ERA through 14 games during his first season as a reliever. He also made a brief trip to Zebulon, N.C. toward the end of the season to join the high-A Carolina Mudcats, where he went 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA through three games.
Though he didn’t attend any classes in Mahoning Valley, Martin noted it was still a learning experience similar to college. The free-swinging hitters had the same approaches and adjusting to new friends and cultures was customary.
“I enjoyed it, kind of getting used to the everyday playing experience,” Martin said. “That New York-Penn League actually had a lot of college players, so it was kind of staying in the same place as where I was at Samford – same kind of competition, mixing all the diversity of cultures with the Dominican guys and all the different colleges across the country. It was a good learning experience.”
The competition may have been the same, but Martin himself changed. In addition to his shift to a reliever, he made some changes in his delivery and his arsenal of pitches.
“In college, I was more spread out when I’m in the stretch,” he explained. “That way I felt like I could load myself a little better in my lower half and when I got there, they wanted me standing up more. They said it wouldn’t wear me out as fast and would be more relaxed.”
Martin also added to his arsenal of pitches with a third component, as he just threw a fastball-curveball repertoire in college. With a trio of offerings, he pitched his way through a solid first season and earned a glimpse at high-A ball, where he gained some good advice.
“I kind of got hit around a little bit but it was a lot of fun,” he said. “I liked the difference in the two teams where in Mahoning, it was real young and all new guys and out there [in Carolina] the guys kind of had the system. They were adjusted to minor league life.”
Most of the players in Carolina were second and third year players, which was an advantage to Martin in terms of guidance.
“They knew how it was and kind of showed me the ropes about stuff I didn’t know,” he explained.” They were able to give me tips like it’s a really tough grind, you’ve got to get used to it and kind of find ways to stick to it so everyday doesn’t seem so long.”
One player who provided Martin with some tips was fellow Samford alumnus Grant Sides, whom the Indians drafted in the 12th round of 2011.
“When I came into college, he was a year older than me so he was there to be my guide and kind of be a mentor to me,” Martin said. “He got me in the weight room and pushed me when we got there. He’s been a valuable resource through spring training and the team just in general.”
Martin also heard rumors from his peers about spring training, some of which may have held true while others seemed a bit exaggerated. To Martin, life in Goodyear wasn’t so bad once he found his routine.
“It wasn’t as bad as I thought,” he revealed. “I had kind of heard horror stories of how it’s just terrible when you’re up early every morning, but it really wasn’t that bad once you get into the routine of getting up and getting to the field early.”
That routine has carried over into the current season, as Martin is typically one of the first to arrive at Classic Park everyday. Martin had a fair hypothesis he’d end up in Lake County to start the season, but he wasn’t sure which role he’d be in.
“It was kind of my idea that I’d be here,” he explained. “I kind of figured I’d do better than Mahoning Valley this year, just because I’m older, but I really had no idea where I was going to be, rotation or bullpen. I had a feeling they may give me a shot at the rotation, just because that’s where I was in college, but whatever they need me to do, bullpen is fine with me.”
Martin feels he’s made the adjustment as a relief arm, as he is mostly used in long relief. For now, he’s continuing to work on his third pitch, a change-up, a welcome contrast to his fastball which he feels is his greatest asset at the moment.
“It’s the best I can remember having, even through college,” he said.
Martin has also altered his delivery, a change he first made back during spring training, where he learned he was sinking down rather than staying tall. Now, Martin’s goal through the remainder of the season is to post a sub-3.00 ERA and possibly work his way into the starting rotation.
“That’s up to the organization,” he noted. “With the role I’m in right now with the long relief, I would like to finish the season with good enough terms and good enough results that they might at least consider me for that.”
Stability is the factor that appeals to Martin the most, which is tough for a reliever if they don’t know which days they’ll be on the bump.
“Starting, it’s once every five days,” he said. “You affect the game, it’s in your hands that day. I kind of always enjoyed having that feeling where the game’s on my shoulders. In the pen, you pitch once every six or seven days and then maybe two days.”
Of course, Martin is more than willing to fill any role the organization needs him to pitch in, as long as he can move up through the ranks.
One routine Martin does have control over is his time off the field, where he likes to focus on life beyond ERAs and pitching mechanics.
“It’s good to have a good routine,” he said. “When I’m away from the baseball field, I have things that are non-baseball-related so that I can get my mind off of a lot of it.”
Martin spends his time fishing, hunting and reading. He enjoys a range of literary genres, from Dan Brown novels to sci-fi thrillers, all of which serve as helpful distractions from an arduous season.
With nearly two months of the season in the books, Josh Martin has fallen into a routine that works well for him. While he hopes to pitch himself into a starting rotation routine, he’s found his niche as a reliever in the Captains’ bullpen. His role in the future may be uncertain, but his present is certainly looking good.
Stephanie is a crime and general assignment reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio. She’s an alumna of Cleveland State University with a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication. You can follow her on Twitter @7thInningSteph.