WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- A veritable six-ring circus of baseball was on display at the Chain 'O Lakes…
Martin Looks Good From Near Or Far
Hidden deep within the March 9 exhibition game box score between the Indians and Reds was the following: Cleveland ERA IP H R ER BB SO HR BF Martin, J. 0.00 1.0 0 0 0 1 3 0 4 Fans who pay close attention to the Tribe's minor league system know the pitcher in question is J.D. Martin, a first-round sandwich pick (35th overall) in the 2001 draft. Many also know that Martin, a 24-year-old right-hander, was added to the 40-man roster this past off-season. And they also know that Martin had Tommy John surgery in 2005 and that he spent much of the 2006 season rehabilitating from that injury. But unless you've had the opportunity to see Martin pitch, you can't begin to realize just how dominating he can be. And, frankly speaking, barring any further health issues, I truly believe Martin has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher in the very near future. Thus far, Martin has flown under the radar screen when it comes to rating the Tribe's top pitching prospects. Jeremy Sowers, Adam Miller, Chuck Lofgren and even Scott Lewis have been more highly touted. Of that group, only Miller has the ability to totally dominate the way Martin does. Miller's mid to upper 90s fastball has proven unhittable at times for minor league opponents. Martin's fastball, which at one time topped out in the low 90s, has picked up speed since his elbow surgery and now is regularly in the mid 90s. And that makes his already-devastating 12-to-6 curveball all that more effective. At times, Martin has made minor-league opponents, even on the Double-A level, look silly. In his debut this spring, Martin struck out three Reds in one inning. Granted, he wasn't facing Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and George Foster, or even Ryan Freel, Brandon Phillips and Adam Dunn for that matter. But the fact is he did indeed fan three batters -– Javier Valentin, Jerry Gil and Bubba Crosby -- in just one inning in his debut with the major league club. That none of the four hitters he faced could put a ball in fair territory tells you a lot about the movement on his pitches. The other thing impressive about Martin is how he has developed from a skinny 6-4, 195-pound youngster into a solid 6-4, 200-plus pound man (the Indians still list him at 195, but take one look at him and you know that's no longer the case.) Something else that the average fan might not know is that there is no player in the organization who works harder and is more determined to be successful. He is all business both on and off the field and seems intent to make it one step higher than his father, John, who was a minor league pitcher and is the person most responsible for teaching J.D. the curveball. No one can predict injuries, so it's impossible to say for sure that Martin will one day be a big-time starter on the major league level. But if indeed he is lucky enough to stay healthy, he very well could be this year's most pleasant pitching surprise on any level in the Cleveland Indians system.
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