If Ethan Martin's numbers at the end of the season wind up being impressive, the date April 30th will go down as the day his season truly got underway. That was the day when Martin took to the mound to face the Louisville Bats. When Martin took the mound in the bottom of the first, he had a 2-0 lead, but that edge didn't last long. Martin was hit for three runs in the first by Louisville and was close to being lifted during the inning and was going to be lifted after the inning, but talked his way into returning to the mound for the second inning. He pitched well after that first inning and Lehigh Valley tied up the game at 3-3 in the top of the fourth. In the bottom of the inning, Martin allowed a one-out double, but an unusual double-play shut down the inning.
When Martin returned to the dugout, manager Dave Brundage told him he was done, but again, the 23-year old had different plans and let his feelings be known.
"After that first inning, I kind of said 'let me go' and he said 'alright.' And then after the fourth, he said 'alright, you're done' and I just said 'no. you're going to let me go one more,' remembers Martin. "I needed that and I'm thankful to him for letting me go out there and build on that."
"I just got to the point where I felt like I was throwing the ball through the plate again. It wasn't just one thing and I can't really point it out to you, to be honest. After that inning, it just felt like something clicked; I'm not sure what, but since then, I've just been throwing real well," said Martin.
Since that first inning, Martin has posted an ERA of 1.96 in 23 innings of work and credits Brundage with his turnaround because he let him keep working, which allowed him to gain confidence and work out the kinks.
"It was really important, because I was one batter away from being pulled in that game and then being able to go out there and throw for four more innings in that game was huge for me."
As for Brundage, he's glad to see that Martin is pitching as well as he is and was happy to see Martin's insistence on staying in the game.
"That's what I want. I don't want guys who are okay with coming out of the game," said Brundage. "He showed a lot there and it was one of those times where it was better for me to just stay out of his way and let him make the call. I might not always do that, but he had a lot working for him and needed to stay in the game."
Looking back at what he was doing early in the season and what he's doing now, Martin knows there's something different, but insists that he didn't make any conscious changes to his mechanics or do anything else to turn his season around, but he also knows that he has to stay on top of his game and keep making himself better with every trip to the mound.
"I feel something different now when I'm on the mound, but now just having that confidence from what I've done the last couple of games, I've just got to keep that and build off of making my pitches better. My last outing, I gave up eight hits, so I've got to work on that and getting better location, but just being able to keep battling through all of those games."
While Martin has been pitching well, the Phillies rotation has been upended by injuries to John Lannan and Roy Halladay. Teammate Tyler Cloyd made one start for the Phillies and wound up back at Lehigh Valley, leaving the door open for someone else to get the call to Philadelphia. In the end, it's Cloyd going back up to the majors and Martin is happy for his teammate and hasn't let thoughts of getting his first call to the majors enter his mind. Instead, he's just focusing on staying in his groove and knows that if he continues to pitch well, he'll get his chance to pitch in the majors sooner rather than later.
"You can't let that [going to the majors] enter your mind, if you do that, it's going to affect your performance here. You have to go at it just like it's any other start," explained Martin. "I feel like I'm ready. I'm just going to put it in their hands. If I just keep going out there and throwing well, it's going to be in their hands, so I don't even worry about it. If it's my time, then I'll go up."