PORTLAND – Two years ago, Chris Martin threw a baseball only when the boss said it was OK. Otherwise, Martin was lugging refrigerators or installing washing machines — the life of a warehouse worker.
Today, Martin is scheduled to pitch for the Portland Sea Dogs when they begin a seven-game homestand at Hadlock Field.
The spotlight Saturday will be on Daisuke Matsuzaka, when he takes the mound for a rehab appearance at Hadlock Field.
Dice-K is a celebrity. Martin is all blue-collar. He thought he was done with baseball four years ago.
“Worked in a warehouse for two years,” Martin said. “Played catch with the boss.”
It was during those games of catch that Martin realized his surgically repaired shoulder might be strong enough to pitch again.
That realization eventually turned into a minor league contract, signed with the Boston Red Sox last spring.
Tabbed a reliever, the rail-thin Martin (6-foot-7, 175 pounds) excelled in Class A bullpens last year. But he found himself pitching more and more innings in spring training last month.
“They really didn’t say a whole lot. They just stretched me out,” Martin said.
“The last few days they go, ‘you know you’re starting, right?’ “
Martin, 25, jumped into the Sea Dogs’ starting rotation, in part because a touted prospect, Anthony Ranaudo, is on the disabled list.
“I think that has a little bit to do with it,” he said, “but you’ve got to take advantage.”
Martin (0-2) has a 5.03 ERA stemming from a disastrous first start (seven runs/four innings). He has allowed four runs in his last three starts.
In his last two games, he’s started strong, retiring the first 11 batters in both. He’s struck out 15 and walked three.
With a fastball in the 90s, a slider, and a change-up in progress, Martin is excelling and looking like a prospect again.
Martin, from Arlington, Texas, was a prospect in high school and junior college.
He was drafted in 2003 (Tigers, 18th round) and 2004 (Rockies, 21st round) but said no. The money offered wasn’t enough to drop out of college.
In Martin’s sophomore season in 2005, he was cruising.
“The (velocity) started going up. Things were looking good,” Martin said. “Then the shoulder “
The labrum in his right shoulder became frayed and required surgery. While the surgery went well, Martin wasn’t affiliated with any team. He had no trainer to work with.
“I didn’t do the throwing program right,” Martin said. “I was on my own. Got lazy “
Martin tried pitching for an independent league team in 2008, but his fastball was down to 85 mph and his arm didn’t recover well after outings.
“I hung it up. Went and got a job,” said Martin of his warehouse career.
The boss liked baseball and during slow times at the warehouse, he and Martin played catch.
In 2010, Martin felt his arm getting stronger and noticed it didn’t hurt after long throwing sessions.
He tried out for the independent Grand Prairie Airhogs, next door to Arlington, and made it. He pitched 13 games with a 1.96 ERA.
Pete Incaviglia, the manager, talked the Red Sox into giving him a tryout in 2011.
Martin had a combined 1.45 ERA in Class A last season, prompting a late promotion to Portland, and his presence in the Sea Dogs’ rotation this year.
He may go back to the bullpen but, Martin knows, it beats going back to the warehouse.
“That keeps me humble,” Martin said. “I’m having a blast.”
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: