Nick Martinez isn’t taking anything for granted. And that’s wise.
He’s hoping to be in the Texas Rangers’ starting rotation when camp breaks but knows he has to earn it with a strong spring. There’s plenty of competition in the clubhouse, too, so there isn’t much room for a bad outing.
He’s off to a good start after throwing two scoreless innings Saturday against the Giants at Scottsdale Stadium. He held them to one hit and no walks by locating his fastball and forcing four of the seven batters he faced to ground out. That’s how Martinez pitched with great success early in 2015 before hitters began to adjust to his pitches and his sequences.
You see that Nick [from early last season] and the guy who threw today, when he has his good stuff he’s one of the best.
Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos comparing Nick Martinez in spring training to the way Martinez started last season.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
On Saturday, he wasn’t working on mechanics and just “getting his work in,” as many veteran starters like to say. Instead, he was treating two middle innings in the fourth game of the spring like his first audition for the fifth starting job while Yu Darvish is out the first couple months of the season.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Yeah, I’ve got to earn it, and I’m very aware of that coming into camp. I’ve got to earn a spot so I got to go out there and get guys out.”
Catcher Robinson Chirinos said Martinez looked like he did last April, when he had a 0.35 ERA over his first four starts.
“You see that Nick and the guy who threw today, when he has his good stuff he’s one of the best,” Chirinos said. “He’s down [in the zone], command his breaking ball and throwing it for strikes.”
Time will tell, however, if Martinez has learned to counter the league’s adjustment.
“When you make a quality pitch and the guy hits the ball that tells you they’re ready for that pitch,” Chirinos said. “We learned [together] and are adjusting to how the league is playing us.”
Martinez knows it’s a crucial element to earning the spot.
“There are plenty other starters we got in the clubhouse that can do that job and want to get the job done so I really can’t take my foot off the gas,” he said.
First for Ruggiano
Outfielder Justin Ruggiano will play first base in a Sunday morning B game, the first time at the position in his career. The right-handed hitter has been working with coaches since early in camp in hopes of giving the club options with a right-handed bat off the bench in place of the left-hitting Mitch Moreland.
I approached him with the idea [Saturday] morning he was up for it.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister on Justin Ruggiano making his first start at first base Sunday.
“He says he’s ready to go so we’ll fire him in there,” manager Jeff Banister said. “It gives us an opportunity to get him out there in a somewhat less stressful situation and not on the big diamond. I think he’s excited about it.”
The B game against the White Sox is at 11 a.m. (CST) on Field No. 1 at the Surprise Recreation Campus. The Rangers will play as the visitor to give the White Sox an extra half inning of pitching.
Infield coaches Tony Beasley and Steve Buechele, who’ve taken turns instructing Ruggiano at first, both told Banister he was ready to give it a go.
“You get to a point where you want to see some live action,” Banister said. “More importantly, Ruggiano wants to do it. You got to have the desire first. I approached him with the idea [Saturday] morning he was up for it.”
Martin Perez is starting the B game and is expected to throw three innings. Banister declined to confirm, but the club probably didn’t want Perez to face the division foe Mariners in the afternoon spring game. Others pitching Sunday morning include Keone Kela, Tom Wilhelmsen and Connor Sadzeck.
Starting pitcher A.J. Griffin threw off a mound in a simulated game Thursday and will pitch an inning in Sunday’s game against the Mariners.
Griffin had Tommy John surgery in April 2014. He was signed to a minor league deal in December. Pitching coach Doug Brocail has Griffin on a slightly slower pace than others.
He called Thursday’s bullpen impressive and encouraging.
For Banister, it’s about how Griffin feels the next day. “Make sure you get through it and compete at the level you can compete at it. The health is important after the fact.”
Closer Shawn Tolleson said he’s feeling better but still limited with lower-back stiffness. Banister said the club is just being conservative.
“I think Tolley is ultra-aware of his body, so we’ll let it calm down,” he said.