Sunday, March 9, 2014
MANCHESTER, N.H. - Relief pitching is a world of up and downs. You notice that when you look at the pitchers here for this Portland Sea Dogs-New Hampshire Fisher Cats series, and who is not here.
CHRIS MARTIN is not here. He is the first bonafide promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket from Portland this season.
Martin, who was pitching for the independent Grand Prairie AirHogs in 2010, became too dominant to hang around in Double-A in 2013.
Standing tall on the mound -- Martin is 6-foot-7 -- he used a fastball-slider combination to record a 0.00 ERA over 12 games (21 innings).
Pitching coach Bob Kipper said it began with Martin's first appearance this year.
"When you come out of the gate and strike out seven batters in three innings, it's been a snowball effect since then," Kipper said.
Opponents were batting .132 against Martin. He struck out 27 and walked six.
Last year, Martin was 3-6 with a 4.48 ERA in 23 games (including 12 starts).
Kipper said Martin's situation is similar to starter Anthony Ranaudo, who is experiencing a turnaround season after an injury-filled 2012.
Martin was also hobbled last season.
"Hip, lower back, elbow inflammation -- always was something," Kipper said. This year "he's healthy and he knows it. He's confident."
And while Martin turns 27 next month, he is still a pup in development, this being his third season with an affiliated minor league team.
"We're talking about a guy who has developed some really solid routines -- from strength and conditioning, to his fundamentals. He's very committed," Kipper said.
Martin made his Triple-A debut Monday against Charlotte. He faced three batters -- ground out, infield single and a double-play (on a grounder hit by Lars Anderson).
JEREMY KEHRT replaced Martin on the Sea Dogs roster, having come down from Pawtucket (0-1, 4.91 ERA in three games, including one start).
Kehrt, 27, is wearing a Sea Dogs uniform for the fourth season. A 47th-round draft pick in 2008, Kehrt has been valuable as a starter and reliever. He was 8-3 with the Sea Dogs last year with a 4.15 ERA.
In Tuesday's game, Kehrt pitched two innings. He allowed a run on a walk, wild pitch, ground-out and infield single.
TOMMY HOTTOVY was at Tuesday's game, but it was not in Sea Dogs colors -- a uniform he wore for parts of six seasons.
Hottovy, 31, signed with the Royals last year and bounced between Triple-A and the majors (2.89 ERA in nine big-league games).
"Being from Kansas City, it was real exciting," Hottovy said. "I grew up in that stadium. I grew up wearing Royals gear.
"I had a great year. Pitched well in the big leagues and in Triple-A (2.52 ERA) ... but the Royals had some guys they needed to protect."
To make room for some Royals prospects on the 40-man roster, Kansas City traded Hottovy to Texas. He was ready to be a Ranger, but then Texas signed free agent Lance Berkman, To make room for Berkman on the 40-man roster, Hottovy was removed.
The Blue Jays scooped in and signed Hottovy. But right before spring training, the Blue Jays also took Hottovy off the 40-man roster and offered him a minor league assignment.
"At that time it was so close to spring training, I needed to accept the assignment," Hottovy said.
From spring training, Hottovy was eventually sent to the minors -- down to Double-A New Hampshire.
"I was (surprised), but then I looked at the roster they sent to Triple-A," Hottovy said. "Twenty-four of the guys had more big league time than I did.
"What can I do? No point in worrying about that."
So Hottovy is working on his role as a lefty specialist. He is tough on left-handed batters -- they hit .250 against him in the majors last year, and are batting .167 against him this year. But he needs to be better against right-handers, who are batting .359 against him this season.
"I'm pretty consistent versus lefties," Hottovy said. "Righties are seeing me better and I'm working on that -- where I can eat up two-three innings in the big leagues."
Hottovy knows the nomadic life of a left-handed reliever.
"I would be with five teams in three years," Hottovy said. "I have to find a team that can use me."
Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at email@example.com