Q&A with Rangers 18th rd pick Nick Martinez

Although Nick Martinez spent most of the last three seasons at Fordham University as a starting infielder, the Texas Rangers recently drafted him as a right-handed pitcher. Lone Star Dugout caught up with Martinez, who was selected in the 18th round.

During his three-year career at Fordham University, Nick Martinez has been primarily a middle infielder. In fact, Martinez has been a key contributor for the Rams, starting in all three seasons.

The Miami native is coming off a strong season as a junior, in which he batted .292 with a .404 on-base percentage and 11 stolen bases while starting 51 contests. He had nine doubles, a triple, and two home runs.

Although Martinez has spent the majority of his life as a position player, the Texas Rangers recently selected him in the 18th round of the 2011 MLB Draft as a right-handed pitcher.

As Martinez explains in the following interview, he logged just about three innings on the mound during his high school career. In his freshman campaign at Fordham, he worked 6.2 innings, giving up 10 earned runs on 14 hits. He didn't log any game action as a pitcher in his sophomore season.

This year, the 20-year-old righty stepped up as one of Fordham's late-inning relievers. Martinez made 10 relief appearances, logging three saves and posting a 2.75 earned-run average. In 19.2 innings, he allowed 19 hits, walked nine, and struck out 20.

Rangers area scout Jay Heafner––who played in the organization at short-season Spokane and Single-A Clinton between '06 and '07––spotted Martinez's raw arm strength this year while the Rams made their early-season trip to the Carolinas.

Martinez recently appeared in the Falmouth Commodores' opening game in the Cape Cod League. He worked two innings in relief, giving up a run on one hit, walking two and fanning three. He was pulled off the roster after the game––likely a sign that he's about to officially ink his deal with the Rangers.

There's video of Martinez throwing a warmup pitch during his lone Cape League outing at the 1:45 mark of this link.

Assuming Martinez signs with the club, he will likely report to Arizona, where he will play for the rookie-level Surprise Rangers this summer.

Lone Star Dugout recently caught up with the 6-foot-1, 175-pound infielder-turned-pitcher.

Jason Cole: What were your initial thoughts on getting drafted by the Rangers?

Nick Martinez: This is a dream come true––to get drafted. Growing up as a kid, I was just watching TV and seeing those guys. You look up to those guys as a little kid. And then as you get older, you start thinking about how you aren't really working––you're playing baseball for a living. That's a dream. It's just a dream come true to get drafted. Just to have your name called is something special.

Cole: Who was your area scout with the Rangers there?

Martinez: The New York area scout––his name is Jay Heafner.

Cole: Had Heafner been watching you pitch quite a bit? I know your time on the mound was somewhat limited overall in three seasons.

Martinez: Yeah. Throughout the year, he saw me pitch a couple times. And down in South Carolina. I think that's where he's from––the Carolinas. He lives in Jersey now. So he saw me pitch at school and at practice a couple times. It was good to have him out there.

Cole: Obviously you're from Miami. But how did you end up going to the Bronx for college?

Martinez: Well, Fordham University is a Jesuit school, and I graduated high school from a Jesuit school. So I was getting recruited by a lot of Catholic universities. When I walked through the Fordham gates, I fell in love with the place. I knew that's where I wanted to be.

Cole: You were pretty much a starting infielder for three years at Fordham, weren't you?

Martinez: Yeah, yes I was.

Cole: What was your primary position?

Martinez: My primary position going into Fordham was shortstop––or middle infield, really. Before going in there, I told the coach that I could pitch a little bit. I only got three innings in high school, but I knew I had a good arm.

I was seeing a pitching coach down there––Juan Alvarez, actually. He's also with Texas. And I was just seeing him to get my mechanics right because I had never pitched before. Going into Fordham, I told my coach that I could pitch a little bit. So throughout the year, he was giving me more and more innings on the mound.

Cole: Juan Alvarez is the Rangers' area scout in Miami, right?

Martinez: Yeah, yeah.

Cole: Leading up to the draft, did you have any teams talking to you about being a position player? Or did you know you would be pitching?

Martinez: Throughout the year, I got a couple questionnaires from other teams. I put down that I was a position player and pitcher, but the only team that was really interested in me was Texas. And they were only interested in me as a pitcher.

Cole: Do you prefer one over the other?

Martinez: I mean, I've been a position player my whole life. I've been hitting and all that. Naturally, I'm more geared toward playing in the field. I always got to play every day, and it wasn't like I would play one day and be off for five.

But every time I got on the mound this year, I felt like I was having fun up there. That's probably why I had such success this year. I was having a lot of fun up there on the mound. It looks good in the future for me fun-wise and all that stuff.

Cole: If you do sign with the Rangers, are you going to miss hitting at all?

Martinez: Yeah, I am. I may even just sneak into the batting cage a little bit to get some swings in.

Cole: You pitched a little bit as a freshman but not as a sophomore at Fordham. Was there an injury or did you just not pitch?

Martinez: No, what happened was my freshman year, I got six innings in. And I didn't do so well because I was still adjusting to the cold, coming from Miami. I didn't really warm up properly. I didn't have any arm problems or anything like that, but I just didn't go through the right steps of warming up and getting ready to pitch. So that's probably why I didn't do so well.

And then my sophomore year, I sat down with my coach and he said, ‘You're going to pitch this year, but when it starts to get warmer out.' So I said, ‘Okay.' I was just waiting, and my sophomore year, I actually went to the bullpen a couple times to get loose and come into the game late in the season when it was hot out. I never came in to pitch, so I didn't get any innings in my sophomore year.

And then in the summer going into my junior year, I called them on the phone and told them that I wanted to be our closer. I told them I was working hard and that I wanted to be our go-to guy out of the ‘pen. And he went with that.

Cole: Looking back on your performance on the mound this past year, what were your thoughts?

Martinez: I think I did alright. My record maybe didn't show it, but I feel like I did fine. I worked hard. There's nothing much I can do about the results, but I think I did alright––especially since, before this year, I only had about nine innings under my belt.

Cole: You mentioned moving from Miami up to New York. I know the weather is brutal there in the preseason and early in the season. How big of an adjustment was that in terms of preparing for a season?

Martinez: I think it's a huge adjustment, really. And it's not so much practicing with the snow––it's dressing for it and doing your pregame workouts and stuff like that. Coming from Miami, I didn't really know. I didn't really ask anybody, which I should have.

The pregame workouts are a big thing. I didn't dress properly––even off the field. I didn't warm up properly in my freshman year. That's something that I learned over the years. I learned how to dress for it and how to work out. I learned a lot.

Cole: I'm sure it stings a little bit when you get jammed with a metal bat in that cold.

Martinez: Oh, yeah. It stings a lot.

Cole: When you're on the mound, what's in your repertoire? What kind of pitcher do you see yourself as?

Martinez: This year, I went mainly with a fastball-slider approach. I usually worked the batter in and out with my fastball, and then my strikeout pitch was usually the slider. And if maybe the slider wasn't working on a day––or if they weren't biting on the slider––I have enough confidence in my fastball to where I can place it anywhere I wanted. I usually went with that.

However, I also have a curveball and a changeup that I really didn't throw this year. I didn't throw it because my curveball is more like a 12-to-6. My pitching coach felt like it would be easier for hitters to recognize the curveball, and the hitter may be able to sit on that. So I went with the fastball-slider approach.

Cole: If you do sign and get into professional ball, what are some things that you really want to work on with the coaches?

Martinez: Just working on different pitches––maybe getting better with different pitches and stuff like that. And also my approach on the mound. I'm not a pitcher, so I don't really have the pitcher mindset. I would just like to learn the approach for each batter or certain batters. I would want the pitching coaches in the system to help me out––I don't know if that's experience or some advice or something like that.

Cole: The draft pretty much just wrapped up, but have you talked to anyone with the Rangers' organization since the draft?

Martinez: Yeah. Jay Heafner actually gave me a text earlier today saying he would call me tonight. But other than that, no, not really. I talked to Juan a couple of times, too.

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