Texas Rangers

Off-season talk with an ex coach who died two weeks later fueled this lefty’s turnaround

Every player who comes to the major leagues for the first time has a story to tell, and left-hander Brett Martin is no different.

Recalled for the first time Friday from Triple A Nashville, Martin said that he spent the past two days calling friends and family to inform them of the biggest news of his career and, of course, getting his butt to Globe Life Park.

One call Friday was particularly meaningful, as he phoned the wife of his former pitching instructor growing up in Knoxville, Tenn., and his first pitching coach in pro ball. Joey Seaver passed away suddenly in December, and Martin wanted his widow, Diana, to hear the news from him.

“That was pretty emotional,” Martin said.

Seaver, who coached four seasons in the Rangers organization, is one of the main cogs behind Martin’s remarkable turnaround after a 2018 season at Double A Frisco that made him a long shot for his debut this season. Seaver didn’t do anything to Martin’s mechanics but said the right things to help restore his confidence.

Seaver died only two weeks after his November conversation with Martin, and has never been too distant from Martin’s thoughts.

“He had been giving me pitching lessons since I was 13 or 14 years old,” said Martin, who turns 24 on April 28. “Talking to him, everything really clicked for me. He was like, ‘You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do and do what feels what’s right for you. Just confident in yourself.

“That’s something that always stuck in the back of my mind, and I carried that through spring training and into the season as well. I just think of him.”

The Rangers were riding a four-game winning streak before falling 7-2 on Friday, as they opened a three-game series against the division-leading Houston Astros. They saw a different Martin than the one who pitched in 2018.

Martin was summoned for his MLB debut in the ninth, and he responded with a 1-2-3 inning.

He doesn’t pull any punches when talking about last season, when he says, “I did terrible.” He posted a 7.20 ERA and allowed 138 hits in 89 innings in large part because he lost faith in his pitches.

A change from starter to reliever and a couple tweaks to his mechanics have made his stuff better. He was one of the final cuts from the spring roster.

Martin took the 25-man spot of fellow lefty Kyle Bird, who was optioned to Nashville for the second time since making the Opening Day roster. Martin is likely to be used similarly to how the Bird was used, though manager Chris Woodward said that he feels confident in Martin against right-handed hitters.

He allowed only one earned run in eight innings for Nashville before his call-up, and that game after allowing only one earned run in 11 Cactus League innings in spring training.

It was his turn to pitch in the majors.

“Brett’s really throwing the ball well. He threw the ball well all spring training,” Woodward said. “From what saw in spring, lefties weren’t real comfortable against him or Bird. I still think he can get out left and right with his stuff. He’s got power stuff.”

Martin said that he will have his parents, brother, girlfriend and his grandparents in the crowd, and his former coach’s words on his mind.

“I needed to hear it,” Martin said.

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After 12 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.