Mike Martinez "Changes Up" the Closer Stereotype

All season long, Charleston closer Mike Martinez has been dynamite, using his four-pitch repertoire to perfection. Perfection being 16 for 16 in save opportunities. The South Atlantic League leader in saves and appearances is one of the top reliever prospects in the Yankee Organization and has been a leader on and off the field.

The rest of the Charleston RiverDogs have been playing eight inning games so far this season. They all work together with one goal in mind; get the ball to closer Mike Martinez. That plan has worked out just fine for the first-place Dogs this season, as Martinez has emerged as the top closer in the South Atlantic League. He has saved 16 of the RiverDogs' 31 wins this year.

But Martinez is not your typical closer. He does not strike out the side or overpower hitters. Instead he is like a surgeon, mixing speeds and painting corners, making batters put the ball in play. Teammates and opponents know that once Martinez is toeing the rubber, the game is as good as done.

"Having him as a closer makes the game more relaxing," set-up man T.J. Beam said. "When he comes in, we know he is going to close the door, so were already taking off our cleats and putting on our shoes."

Beam couldn't be more right about Martinez. He currently leads the South Atlantic League in appearances with 23 and he has been automatic in save opportunities. The 23-year old right-hander is a perfect 16 for 16 in save chances this season, slamming the door on would-be rallies.

Martinez, who was drafted out of Cal-State Fullerton, loves being the one who is out there with the game on the line. He thrives on the big moment and oddly enough, his worst outings have come when the game was already out of reach. On May 24th against Hickory, Martinez came in with a 6-0 lead and gave up his first two home runs of the season.

"What's amazing about him is, if it's not a save opportunity he struggles," reliever Josh Smith joked. "But when the game is on the line, it's over. Its fun for us and the starters because all we have to do is get it to the ninth."

Splitting time between Staten Island and Battle Creek last season, Martinez recorded only nine saves in 21 appearances. This year though, manager Bill Mosiello has put the ball in his hands and he has never looked back.

"He's the stabilizer," Mosiello said. "He's very low key but he is a great competitor. He never gets rattled, he throws strikes, and most importantly, his poise makes him perfect for this role. We're lucky to have him."

With a strong first half under his belt, Martinez is starting to be viewed as a top relief prospect within the Yankee Organization. Considered the most polished of all reliever prospects, Martinez is a Keith Foulke-type pitcher who is armed with one of the best changeups in the system.

"The changeup is definitely my out-pitch," Martinez said. "I can throw a two-seam and a four-seam fastball with a curveball, but my best pitch is my changeup. It all depends on how I feel that day with my other pitches, but my changeup is always there."

After finishing first in the Rolaids Relief Man Standings for Minor League Baseball in April, Martinez viewed it as an honor for both himself and his bullpen mates. He and the rest of the Charleston "goofballs" have formed the best bullpen in the South Atlantic League.

"We're a real tight bunch," Martinez said laughing. "We know we have a job to do but it's important to keep it light. We all have confidence in one another and given the chance, I would set-up for anyone of these guys."

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