The most significant thing to remember about Nick Martinez after his five-plus innings Monday night at a wet U.S. Cellular Field is that the Texas Rangers right-hander turns 24 on Tuesday.
Not 24, with the stuff of a former highly touted phenom. Not 24, with years of experience in Double A and Triple A.
Martinez is a 24-year-old former part-time infielder at noted college power Fordham who pitched last August at Double A Frisco and made two starts there in April.
No, he shouldn’t be a part of the 2014 Rangers, who, for the millionth time, have been ravaged by injuries, and now have altered their lingo from a “development season” to holding open “auditions” for the 2015 team.
Martinez, though, deserves a callback. There was good in his five-plus innings, though ultimately outweighed by the bad as the Chicago White Sox rallied to a 5-3 victory in a game that was called by rain after 6 1/2 innings.
“I thougth he gained some ground,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “He didn’t let it get away from him, and that showed some growth. He’s got stuff. He’s just got to learn what to do with it.”
Martinez surrendered a 3-0 lead, the second straight day the Rangers lost after holding a three-run edge after two innings, though he had been yanked by the time Tyler Flowers delivered a two-out, two-strike, two-run single off Nate Adcock.
All five White Sox runs were charged to Martinez, who lost his seventh straight decision since his lone career win May 24 at Detroit. The Rangers have lost four straight games since closing July with their only series win of the month.
The Rangers were in position to snap their skid, giving Martinez a three-run cushion on a first-inning RBI single by Adrian Beltre and a two-run homer in the second by Rougned Odor after an error had extended the inning.
All three Rangers runs came with two outs, but the Odor hit was the last they would have against Hector Noesi until Shin-Soo Choo’s two-out single in the seventh just before the game was halted.
One of Martinez’s problems, he confessed, has been an inability to apply what is learning during his major-league crash course. He continues to get in trouble when he tried to nibble at the corners, and his three walks and 97 pitches accurately depict a pitcher who fell behind in counts.
But he also found a way to limit damage in the third and fifth innings, something he couldn’t do last week in a loss to the Yankees after allowing only one run in his first five innings.
“I knew I just had to go out and keep attacking,” Martinez said. “I’ve limited some runs. They could have had a bigger inning.”
That sixth inning was a doozy, as he allowed five of the Yankees’ seven runs. But he stopped the bleeding after Jose Abreu, baseball’s RBI leader and the reigning American League Player and Rookie of the Month, singled in two in the third.
Martinez got Adam Dunn to fly out and struck out Dayan Viciedo to end that threat.
After Flowers tied the game with leadoff homer in the fifth, Adam Eaton walked and Alexei Ramirez singled. But Martinez got Abreu to pop out, and the inning ended as Eaton was caught stealing as Dunn struck out.
But the White Sox started the sixth with a single and a double on Martinez’s first four pitches, and a decent outing would eventually turn into a loss.
He went back out for the sixth at 93 pitches, ordinarily a situation when Washington would go to the bullpen. But in the season of open auditions, the Rangers need to see how their young pitchers, like Martinez, fare under less-than-ideal circumstances.
Martinez, though, will continue to start every fifth game. What happened on a dreary Monday night won’t change that. The hope is that it will change Martinez for the better.
That’s the hope of the 24-year-old Martinez, too.