Since Yu Darvish went down due to Tommy John surgery early on in Spring Training, there have been question galore about who the Rangers might have fill that spot. There were rumblings about a potential Cole Hamels deal being more likely that before, but during that time, a deal never really appeared all that close to anyone that follows the ball club on a closer level.
Thursday night, Nick Martinez pitched six scoreless innings, running his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 8.2. For the Spring, Martinez now sports a shiny 0.84 ERA in 10.2 innings pitched. Of course, with the normal disclaimer that Spring Training numbers don't really matter in the grand scheme of things, it's been nonetheless encouraging to see his pitching repertoire look a bit more refined than it was in a 2014 rookie season; one in which he was thrown into Major League action after never pitching above the Double-A level.
In 2014, Martinez had starts in which he would look promising. In others, however, he struggled to get through more than five innings, at one point on June 9 giving up 8 earned runs in only 2.0 innings. Then again, he's only just now entering his age-24 season, and it just so happens that the Texas Rangers need a 5th starter.
As far as auditions go, you can't do much better than what Nick Martinez has done. Nick Tepesch has an ERA of 8.65 this Spring in 13.2 IP. Anthony Ranaudo, in 8.1 IP, has put up an ERA of 6.48. These are insanely small sample sizes when you're talking about starting pitching, but if we're determining who the most deserving candidate is based on recent results or even aggregate Spring results, Martinez wins both contests, and it's not even really close.
In his fantastic Thursday outing, Nick managed to keep the ball down, attack the inside portion of the strike zone, and throw first-pitch strikes to 18 of 23 hitters. It's a good recipe to get through six innings on only 74 pitches, and even longer when the regular season begins.
Getting through the lineup the third time around will be an important challenge for whoever ends up in the rotation. The Rangers blew through bullpen arms last year, partly due to injury, but a lack of quality outings by starting pitchers was also to blame as well.
Jeff Banister has talked about the pitching staff trying to get hitters to put the ball into play in three pitches or less. On Thursday, Nick Martinez managed that feat 15 times, allowing him to put up a 5-pitch 4th inning.
With the understanding that the rotation very well may be a fluid situation in 2015, it's nonetheless nice that Martinez has stepped up and distinguished himself in a field of pitchers that many felt was, largely, underwhelming. No longer a rookie, Martinez proved in 2014 that he has the ability to work against Major League hitters. More consistency could be a key to him approaching a new level of success.
That kind of success would be beneficial for the Rangers, and that very potential -- and what he's shown thus far in Spring Training -- is why Nick Martinez should be the 5th starter for your Texas Rangers heading into the 2015 season.