After spending four years re-tooling his game in Japan, San Diego Padres pitcher Nick Martinez is ready for another shot in the MLB.
On Wednesday, Nick Martinez made his second spring training start, tossing 4.0 innings while allowing just two hits, no earned runs, and striking out four in the Padres’ 4-2 win over the Brewers. Signed to a one-year deal with players options for 2023, 2024, and 2025 in mid-March, the Friars hope to strike gold in a reclamation project.
So far, so good for Martinez, who owns a 1.29 ERA in 7.0 innings pitched this spring.
“We’re getting toward the part of spring where you gotta start honing everything in, and I feel like I’m right on track,” he said following Wednesday’s start.
Drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 18th round of the 2011 MLB Amateur draft, the Miami, Florida native made his big league debut in 2014. In four big league seasons, Martinez primarily pitched to contact, allowing 9.8 hits-per-nine innings (H/9) to just 5.1 strikeouts-per-nine innings (K/9), while his ERA ballooned to 5.59 during the 2016 campaign.
The following year, he gave up a career-high 26 home runs and became an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Martinez opted to re-tool his mechanics, taking his game away from the bright lights of Major League Baseball. He signed with Japan’s Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of the Nippon Professional Baseball League.
“It was a good opportunity for me to work on my craft at a still very high level, and I was able to capitalize on those opportunities and bring it back over here,” Martinez said of his time overseas.
Spinning a 3.51 ERA in 161.2 innings pitched in his first season, Martinez admitted that he was stuck in an old-school mindset and only pitching to contact. Tweaks to his mechanics saw the right-hander steadily improve over the next three seasons.
In 2021, Martinez posted a 1.60 ERA in 140.2 innings of work with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks while seeing his hits and strikeouts trend in positive directions.
“I struggled a little bit searching for what my swing and miss pitch was,” the 31-year-old said. “I thought, metrically, I had some really good pitches in a couple of other areas. It turns out that I found some swings and misses in other ways. Once I found it, it got really fun trying to create and get different looks. I still have the mentality of pitching to contact and attacking the zone, and now I have the stuff to create that swing and miss.”
His resurgence last season was enough to attract the attention of several Major League Baseball teams looking to add Martinez to their roster. The Padres were reportedly closing in on a four-year deal with the big righty before the lockout. After the league and player’s association agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Martinez and the Padres came together on a one-year contract.
“It’s a lot of fun, they seem so much fun,” he said on why he chose to sign with the Padres. “You look at this rotation, you look at this lineup, the stuff you see on TV, how well they get along, how much fun they’re having. And obviously, I want to win. That’s what pitching in Japan and in the Olympics– I got that urge that I wanted to win bad. I felt like this team aligned with what I wanted to do.”
Martinez will look to continue his strong spring thus far, potentially breaking camp as the Padres’ fifth starter in the rotation.