FLUSHING, NY– The season projections have the San Diego Padres winning the NL West and dethroning the Dodgers who have won the last five. Pitching of course will win a share of ballgames.
And so will a potent lineup win a share of ballgames, the Padres have with the likes of Manny Machado (2022 National League Latino MVP), Juan Soto (2021 NL Latino MVP), Xander Bogaerts, the veteran Nelson Cruz, and soon the return of Fernando Tatís Jr. (2020 NL Latino MVP).
Machado put the Padres on the board Tuesday evening at Citi Field with a two-run double in the fifth in their 4-2 win over the Mets, his first RBI in six games dating back to April 4.
The Padres, though, are solid on the mound with a starting rotation of All-Stars including Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove (Injured list), veteran Michael Wacha, and Ryan Weathers.
And with one of the highest payrolls in baseball, ambitions to overtake the Dodgers, you need pitching depth. The Padres added another arm last year and signed 32-year old right-hander Nick Martinez, the Cuban American and with that veteran experience.
A fastball and a curve that moves, Martinez spent four years in Japan. He was content but looked for that break and the Padres last year signed him to a Major League contract, a career once again in transition.
“Got to play four years in Japan that offered a unique and fun experience,” he said Tuesday in the visitor’s clubhouse. “There are things I can offer after playing in Japan and coming back.”
He reminds you of that pitcher on the comeback, though this was not a situation of reviving a career with a Major League Baseball team. Martinez looked for a return to the states, this after pitching four years with the Texas Rangers.
A veteran NL scout with the Padres said, give Martinez a look. The Padres sent their personnel to Japan and Martinez retuned last year (Throwing 106,1 innings, 4-4, 3,47 ERA.)
He gave the Padres an added arm in their push for a NL pennant that fell short in the NLCS to the Philadelphia Phillies. This early in the season, (0-1, 6,17 ERA, 11.2 innings) not the best start.
But Martinez is a pitcher that knows something about adjustments, been that way since his high school days and at Fordham University in the Bronx, NY, drafted in the 18th round by the Rangers in the 2011 draft.
And one thing is certain, as the Padres pitching staff movies along this early, Martinez is confident he will make the adjustments with rules of a pitch clock and ban of the infield shift. The veterans, as he says, are still in that adjustment mode as the younger pitchers have seemed to adapt quicker to the different and rapid pace of the game.
But pitching is contagious. Martinez is aware who follows and precedes him in the rotation.
“It’s contagious when you have guys competing for the CY Young Award and All-Stars,” he said. “You are around that talent and experience. You always try to challenge yourself and keep up with them.”
Martinez is not putting blame on a pitch clock for throwing some pitches that have not located. He has adjusted to the new rules and rapid pace of the game has got his blessings, though admits the clock should have been implemented earlier in his career.
“Game is at a faster pace,” he said. “In my opinion it’s unfortunate for guys like myself that have played the game to have the rule implemented this point in our careers. Way I look at it, you know your baseball and die hard fans will continue watching.”
But it’s those adjustments. Martinez has felt the tendency of rushing his pitch selection, like a fighter does in the championship rounds, and there’s a concern of hitting the strike zone.
“You just have to keep adapting and find ways and use it to your advantage,” he said. “Pitch clock, you can get more control of the game, can also lose control and get it back.”
He mentioned Max Scherzer, the Mets veteran ace who is not an advocate of the clock. Martinez is not Scherzer, then again, veteran pitchers are also a part of the Padres pitching rotation, they too are making adjustments.
Contagious also applies to the new rules, one follows the other in the Padres rotation and eventually they all will be on the same page. During the first two weeks of the season, games are moving quicker. Batting averages have increased without a shift in the infield.
A shift that also has an impact on the pitcher, and wider bases have increased stolen base percentages, adjustments also for the veteran Nick Martinez.
“More hits, more steals, sometimes it can feel like a lot of rules will cater to the hitter, but then you get the pitch clock that works to my advantage,” he said. “You just have to keep adapting and find ways and use it to your advantage.”
And for the Padres to sees Nick Martinez making adjustments, that will only increase their pitching depth in their quest to overtake the Dodgers.
Rich Mancuso Co-Editor and senior writer Latinosports.com. Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso.
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