Onetime American Association rookie Chris Martin already has had what easily can be described as an amazing up and down career in baseball, including a brilliant major league debut at Yankee Stadium, and now after spending two seasons in Japan he is returning to the United States to try another comeback, this time pitching for the Texas Rangers.
Now 31, the 6-foot-8 right-hander was drafted twice while still a teenager, although he did not sign either with Detroit or Colorado. He got hurt (torn labrum and some damage to the capsule in the shoulder), we reported on our blog, www.IndyBaseball Chatter, nearly two years ago. “I thought my career was done,” he told The Scranton (PA) Times-Tribune at the time.
Martin worked in various jobs, occasionally playing softball or in a men’s baseball league, for nearly half a decade until his boss at one of those positions showed up one day with a catcher’s mitt and a glove for the Texas native.
Martin wanted to try out for the Grand Prairie AirHogs in 2010, but “almost left the tryout”, the hurler told MLB.com at his introductory media conference with the Rangers this month. “There were a hundred guys there,” he recalled. “It was fifty bucks for the tryout and I didn’t have fifty bucks in my pocket to pay for it.”
After showing a 90-plus miles per hour fastball, Grand Prairie signed him and the 24-year-old pretty much dazzled in the 13 games in which he appeared (four starts) by going 4-0 with a 1.96 earned run average and a strikeout-per-inning for 36.2 innings. Boston offered a tryout although Martin had to pay his own way to Fort Myers, FL to get it. He signed, then worked his way up to Triple-A in three seasons in the Red Sox system, was a so-so reliever at Colorado Springs and with the parent Rockies in 2014 before the Yankees bought his contract.
His debut with the Yankees came in early April, and it took him 17 pitches in a fifth inning appearance to strike out the big-hitting trio of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson. Martin went 0-2 with a 5.66 ERA in his 24 relief appearances for New York, but moved on to the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan the last two seasons where he was nothing short of brilliant with a 1.12 ERA and a 0.67 WHIP and 22 saves in 92 appearances.
“It is a dream come true,” Martin told MLB.com, of getting to sign and join the 40-man major league roster with Texas. “I grew up my whole life watching the Rangers, idolizing Nolan Ryan. Driving up today (for the media conference) and seeing the stadium…is a really awesome experience.”
League Duo Vie for Brewers Rotation Slot
The American Association has not one but two of the current candidates for what is believed to be the last spot in the starting rotation with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Fansided reports that Junior Guerra and Aaron Wilkerson are two of the four possibilities for the fifth spot in the rotation. Guerra, a stalwart in Wichita’s rotation in 2011 and again two years later, was last season’s opening day starter for the National League team after a 9-3, 2.81 breakout ’16, but injuries limited him to only 70 innings (1-4, 5.12) so at 33 he will need a bounce-back spring. Wilkerson, who broke into professional play in 2013 out of Cumberland University and spent time at Grand Prairie both that season and in ’14, finally broke through to get a major league opportunity with the Brewers late last summer. He got into three games, starting twice, with a respectable 1-0, 3.48 log which followed a season at Double-A (Biloxi) where he won 11 of 15 decisions with a 3.16 ERA and a strikeout per inning plus a very good ratio of hits to innings (117 in 142.1) to open some eyes.
Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, and a book about his life, “The Passion of Baseball”, is available at traditional book-buying sites, or at www.WirzandAssociates.com.