Martin hoping to throw deeper, build off recent starts

There was a pause as Shane Martin chose his words very carefully. A smile crept over his face.

“Nellie made the decision that was the best choice for the ballclub,” the Williamsport starting pitcher said, his smile growing even wider.

The right-hander had thrown just 62 pitches when he was removed from Friday’s series opener against Staten Island. Sure, he would have liked to have gone further in the game. He was used to being the guy in college counted on for seven or eight innings a start.

It hasn’t been that way since the right-hander was selected in the ninth round out of Southwestern Oklahoma State in June. After throwing over 100 innings during the spring college season, Martin has been on a strict pitch count.

He understands the situation, but he said his arm is feeling great and would still love to be that seven or eight-inning pitcher.

“That’s just not what it’s about right now,” Martin said following batting practice Saturday at Bowman Field. “I’m thankful for the innings I’m getting.”

Martin has been fantastic in his last three starts for the Crosscutters, and his start Friday against Staten Island was an extension of the string of success he’s had. He allowed just one run and two hits in his five innings, throwing 42 of his 62 pitches (68 percent) of his pitches for strikes.

In his last three starts, Martin has allowed just three runs in his last three starts. He’s also struck out 6.1 batters per nine innings, walked just 1.1 batter per nine inning, and allowed just 6.75 hits per nine innings over that stretch.

There hasn’t been a drastic change in what Martin has been doing over the last three starts. In fact, this is what he’s expected from himself when he started his pro career with the Crosscutters.

“It just took me a little bit to get going with my professional career,” Martin said. “It’s something to build off of. I’m trying to build each time out and hopefully the next time will be better than the last.”

It’s not as though Martin has had a rough season leading up to his prior three starts. He hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his nine starts this year.

But they hadn’t quite been what he wanted. The last three have been more what he’s had in mind. He’s been staying down in the zone – something which eluded him through his first six starts – and he’s creating a better angle on his pitches.

It’s led to softer contact from opposing hitters as he’s continually been around the plate. His final two innings Friday night were both six-pitch innings. And for a pitcher on a strict pitch count as he approaches a combined 150 innings pitched between college and pro ball, innings like those six-pitch innings are vital.

“I missed barrels,” Martin said. “They hit it where (the defense was) whether it was a weak pop or a ground ball. The defense was just spectacular (Friday). (Staten Island) was aggressive and if you want to swing at my pitch, go ahead.”

Martin said he’s been able to go on the mound almost on auto-pilot because of the work he’s been doing in his bullpen sessions. In the bullpen is when he really critiques himself and tries to make adjustments.

He avoids being that way on the mound. He instead looks at it as his time to compete.

“You can’t worry about your front arm or your back leg or whatever is bothering you,” Martin said. “That’s game day, it’s time to see who is better, you or the guy in the box. It’s about competing and giving your team a chance to win.”

And in his last three starts, he’s done better than just giving his team a chance to win.