The adoring Nick Martinez Fan Club that cheered his every move earlier this month during his major league debut won’t have nearly the same number of representatives Tuesday for career start No. 2.
He estimated that 50 or 60 friends and family from his native Florida endured Tropicana Field. One aunt who lives in the Bay Area will brave the worst stadium in the game, O.co Coliseum.
“She won’t be screaming,” Martinez said.
Martinez might be screaming, or at least muttering, if he doesn’t throw strikes. Quality strikes. And lots of them.
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The Oakland A’s make pitchers work. Just ask Yu Darvish. A pitcher coming off a five-walk game at Double A Frisco, as Martinez is, could be in for a short, miserable night if he can’t command the strike zone.
That’s his first task in his second spot start of the season for the Texas Rangers.
“The same things that apply to Double A are going to apply here,” Martinez said Monday before the Rangers and A’s opened a three-game series.
“Obviously, the mistakes you make up are probably going to be more damaging. But I’m going to try to pitch my game. I was walking too many guys down there [at Frisco]. I’m going to get back to what helped me get up here in the first place.”
Martinez opened eyes April 5, when he allowed three runs in six innings at Tampa Bay and left with the lead in a game that the bullpen gave away in the eighth inning. The Rays connected for two homers to account for their runs against Martinez.
The two starts that followed for Martinez at Frisco, though, were nothing special. If anything, the five walks he allowed in 4 2/3 innings Thursday against Corpus Christi were a bit disconcerting.
Worry not, said Martinez. He was experimenting with a two-seam fastball and was having trouble throwing it for a strike. He will be featuring a four-seamer, a slider and a curveball against the A’s, and maybe the sinker in the right situation.
“It’ll be in the back pocket,” Martinez said. “But it’s pretty far down the depth chart.”
Martinez, 23, appears to be first on the Rangers’ depth chart of extra starters. There wasn’t much talk about any other pitchers, namely fellow right-hander Nick Tepesch, coming up for the spot start that became necessary when Tanner Scheppers (elbow) hit the disabled list.
Tepesch, who opened 2013 as the Rangers’ No. 5 starter, is working on a changeup at Triple A Round Rock. Though he has pitched well in three of his four starts, the Rangers want Tepesch to keep tinkering in the minors.
“He needs to stay down there and compete,” manager Ron Washington said.
And Martinez, who has never pitched in the minors above Double A, needs to be competing in the minors, too, and will be once Matt Harrison is activated from the disabled list, possibly as soon as this weekend. Martinez knows that but isn’t focused on it.
He needs to be focused on throwing strikes against an A’s team that entered Monday ranked second in the American League in walks (86) and on-base percentage (.344). Martinez walked three Rays in his debut, and one scored on a two-run homer by Matt Joyce.
“Just go out there and throw his stuff and make them swing the bats,” Washington said. “This team, you can’t be putting on the base. They find a way to hurt you. That’s all I want him to do: Just throw strikes.”