Meet new Padres’ starter Nick Martinez

Padres Nick Martinez

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Assuming no last-minute injuries, Nick Martinez will make his San Diego Padres debut on Monday night against the Giants.

Martinez pitched for the Rangers from 2014 to 2017 before moving to Japan to play for the Nippon-Ham Fighters. He pitched for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics, earning a silver medal in the process. The Padres signed Martinez to a one-year contract, but he has player options for the 2023, 2024, and 2025 seasons. The 31-year-old has had a long road, but after a solid spring, he earned the right to start the season as part of the rotation.

Ramirez went to college at Fordham, but he mostly played as a second baseman rather than a pitcher. He only appeared in 15 games on the mound and didn’t have much success. He posted just a 5.33 ERA in his limited appearances. As a collegiate player, Martinez was useful as a hitter, batting .295 across his three seasons. Despite his failure as a pitcher, the Texas Rangers drafted Martinez in the 18th round of the 2011 MLB Draft.

The Rangers immediately utilized Martinez’s pitching skills. Across 15 games in 2011 in Rookie Ball and Low-A ball, he posted a 2.30 ERA. 2012 wasn’t an exceptionally successful season, as he had a 4.83 ERA in 31 games, 20 of which were starts in Single-A ball. Still, the Rangers promoted him to High-A and Double-A for the 2013 season, which went well for Martinez. Across a career-high 151.1 innings, he made 25 starts, including a complete game, spinning a 2.50 ERA. Martinez struck out 128 batters while walking just 45. 

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His stellar 2013 campaign earned him an invite to the Rangers’ 2014 spring training, and he was named the fifth starter on March 26. His debut was a six-inning outing against the Tampa Bay Rays, in which he allowed just four hits but three runs in a no-decision. Martinez was eventually pushed into the bullpen after Matt Harrison returned from injury, where he pitched well.

The right-hander allowed just one run in 6.2 innings of relief. Harrison suffered another injury, which pushed Martinez back into the starting rotation. He finished the season with a 5-12 record but a decent 4.55 ERA. The pitcher also ended the year strongly, as he posted a 2.29 ERA in his final five starts. 

The 2015 season was another solid year for Martinez, as he recorded a 3.96 ERA in 24 appearances, including 21 starts. He made six starts for Triple-A Round Rock, but he spent most of the season with the Rangers. The 2015 season was the only time where he posted above-average numbers in ERA, but he struggled to strike out batters. Martinez only struck out 13.8% of batters, while the average pitcher struck out 20.9% of hitters.

Nick Martinez spent most of the 2016 season in Triple-A, and he struggled in his limited outings in the majors. His ERA ballooned to 5.59 in his 12 MLB games. He had another tough year in 2017, as his ERA moved up to 5.66. When Martinez reached free agency, he didn’t have any offers from MLB teams.

The pitcher decided to accept a one-year contract worth $1.8 million with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan. He pitched well, as Martinez posted a 3.51 ERA, which earned another one-year deal with the Nippon-Ham Fighters. He was paid $2.2 million and put up a 10-11 record and a 3.51 ERA for the second consecutive year.

After signing another one-year deal, he struggled in the truncated 2020 campaign as his ERA skyrocketed up to 4.62. He did not get re-signed by the Ham Fighters and became a free agent before signing with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, who also play in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). The right-hander had a spectacular season for the Hawks. Martinez posted a 1.62 ERA in 149.2 IP, leading the Hawks in strikeouts.

He pitched in two games during the Olympics for Team USA, recording a 1.64 ERA, including a start in the gold medal game against Japan. While Team USA lost the game, Martinez pitched six innings of one-run ball in the contest.

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His stellar performances for the Hawks and Team USA earned him the contract offer from the Padres, and the combination of the injury for Mike Clevinger, as well as solid performance in spring training, earned him the fifth spot in the rotation — at least for now. 

Martinez will make his MLB return against the Giants on Monday and look to re-establish himself as a talented starter.

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