One can only imagine how exciting it must be to receive that magic phone call informing you that you have just been selected in the MLB First Year Player Draft, something that left-hander Jarret Martin experienced not once but twice – the first in 2008 when he was selected in the 19th round by the Baltimore Orioles which he declined, electing to remain in school instead, and the second in 2009 in the 18th round of the 2009 Draft by those same Orioles which he accepted and signed with the team. But believe it or not, those were not the two most important phone calls in the (then) 18 and 19-year-old Bakersfield native’s life. Although he didn’t know it at the time, the two most important phone calls of Martin’s life would come in December of 2011 and in November of 2013 respectively.
“The first call I’ll never forget where I was or what time it was,” recalls Martin. “I was in Hawaii at the time with my fiance and it was five o’clock in the morning. I got a phone call from a Baltimore area code so I knew it was something to do with business. They told me I was being traded to the L.A. Dodgers. Once you hear that, growing up watching the great Mike Piazza, Todd Zeile, Eric Karros, Raul Mondesí and all those guys, I kind of went blank for a minute and that whole day was like Wow!”
But as exciting as that first phone call was for Jarret, it was the next one that was over the top.
“Getting that call from (Dodgers General Manager) Ned Colletti saying that I was going to be added to the 40-man roster was a dream,” added Martin. “I’m looking forward to my first big league spring training. I’m going to take it one step at a time and I’m going to try and make the club now that it’s available and now that I’m one step closer. I’m going to try to take advantage of that.”
But being on the 40-man roster and actually making the big league team out of spring training are two very different things and one doesn’t always lead to the other, but it is definitely a step in the right direction. The good news for Jarret (and for Yimi Garcia and Pedro Baez who were also added to the Dodgers 40-man roster to prevent them from being taken in the Rule 5 Draft) is that they are going to get a fair shake this spring.
“You add players the 40-man (roster) for a variety of reasons,” said Colletti during Wednesday morning’s media conference. “One is you don’t want to lose them in the Rule 5 (Draft) and the other is come to spring training and have a real solid look in the spring, and leave an impression. Many times when you get into a season and you have an injury in the game and so you sit with Don (Mattingly) and Rick (Honeycutt), Chuck Crim and Kenny Howell and you go through who your relative options are. Players leave an impression and the opportunity is there for these guys. Are they going to make the team out of spring training? Probably a long shot. But are they going to be here before the end of the season? I think they all have a chance to do that.”
As for the Winter Development Camp itself, Martin is having the time of his life.
“The first class big league treatment that we’re getting right now is amazing,” said Martin of his experience. “Having a bunch of individual time to listen to guys like Vin Scully and Eric Karros and Nomar Garciapara, guys that we’ve never seen before, and then to workout at Dodger Stadium and all of the facilities, and pretty much experience the big league life has been amazing and for me it’s been a blessing.”
Up until the beginning of the 2013 season Martin had been used almost exclusively as a starter, but he struggled with his control and was eventually switched to the reliever/closer role.
“I started when I was down at (Advanced Single-A) Rancho Cucamonga and I struggled back and forth with inconsistencies in my delivery, command of the strike zone and my mental approach,” said Martin. “And then in one game, just like pitching coaches and legends say, eventually it just clicks. It started to click for me and I just kind of ran with that and strung along some pretty good games.
“After the All-Star break I got a call from our pitching coordinator Rafael Chaves,” added Martin. “He said ‘You’ve been pitching great, we want to make you a reliever now and get you moving through the system faster.’ It took me a few games to get my feet wet and understand the role. As a starter you have every fifth day, you have your warm-up, you have your bullpen, and now you have to be in ‘game mode’ everyday – how you prepare yourself body-wise, mentally-wise.”
Although moving from the starting rotation to the bullpen was a major change for Martin, he maintained his same workout regimen.
“Certain guys handle it differently,” said Martin. “For me I didn’t change anything with workouts, with throwing. I always pride myself on taking care of myself, taking care of my body and trying to maintain my strength throughout the season. As a starter you’re using a lot more energy, a lot more innings, a lot more work, so relieving was kind of a step back for me body-wise. (As a reliever) you have a lot more games in the week but for me, my first inning out of the bullpen was one inning and I come back to the dugout and it’s ‘Now what do I do? I’m fine. That’s nothing.’
“And then they put me in the closing role and I really ran with that, I enjoyed that. For me I love competing, I love coming in and big games are kind of my thing, and so when you get in that ninth inning for a save situation you have that adrenaline flowing and that competitiveness comes out.”
With pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training in less than five weeks, Martin knows exactly what he needs to do to be successful and plans to work towards that end.
“My number one thing has always been throwing strikes,” said Martin. “I want to come in and I want to challenge these hitters. I don’t care who it is, I’m going to go out there and approach it as another game. It might be big league hitters but I feel like with my stuff I can compete with them and I’m going to continue to work on just throwing strikes, getting guys out and allowing our team to win.
“I’m going to continue to work on my change-up,” adds Martin. “They have me relieving now but that doesn’t mean that I’m done starting, so I don’t want to cash in all my tickets to just being a reliever. I want to develop more pitches and to get better and to continue to grow.
“I feel that my fastball is my number one pitch and I’m more confident throwing my slider, and if I need to throw (my slider) for a strike when I’m behind in the count I can do that. I’ve been working in Instructional League, Arizona Fall League and off-season working on throwing a change-up more and reading swings. They’ve been teaching us to read swings and that’s something that I’ve learned this last season, but I’m not going to move away from my fastball if I’m beating guys with my fastball and if they can’t make a good swing at my slider I’m not going away from my slider. I’m not going to throw my third best pitch in a situation where I need a strike.”
Martin admits that he has never had a traditional 12 to 6 curveball that big left-handers are famous for but he says that he has a weapon in his arsenal that he has had for a very long time.
“I have a three-quarter arm slot so I’ve never had the delivery to throw a 12-6 curveball,” said Martin. “I don’t throw that short, tight little slider – mine’s more of a hard slurve and that’s been the same pitch since I was ten years old and I’ve grown with that. When I’m looking for my out pitch I have my power breaking ball.”
Although Jarret would like to return to the starter role, he will do whatever it takes to make it to the major leagues.
“Ultimately I would love to be back in the starting rotation but for the time being I want to get to the big leagues, and whatever the Dodgers need me to do to help the team win I’d love to do it.”
Asked what he enjoyed most during the week-long Winter Development Camp, Martin’s answer was no different that yours or mine would have been.
“Meeting Vin Scully,” said Martin without any hesitation. “It was like a little kid looking at your hero. I grew up watching the Dodgers. When I was a baby crawling around, my dad would have the game on TV and we had family film where you can hear Vin Scully in the background. I grew up watching the game, watching him, listening to him, and just to sit there in the press conference room and listen to him talk. I even put my head down and closed my eyes just to hear his voice. He’s so smart, he’s got so many stories, I wish I could talk to him for hours, tell me stories like campfire stories.
“As soon as we were done we all took a picture (with Vin) and that was exciting. (Matt) Magill and I, both being from Southern California growing up watching him and listening to him and watching the Dodgers, we’re like ‘We’ve got to get this fellow’s autograph… this is VIN SCULLY! You don’t get his autograph – he’s up in the booth, this is a guy you should get!’ So that was something we just had to do and he ended up telling us a couple more stories and we got some awesome photos that (Jon SooHoo) took of us. I’m going to put that on my wall with the ball. It’s going to be something that I have to share with my family, my future kids and my grand kids someday.”
There is, of course, one more import phone call that Jarret Martin is waiting for, and when it comes it will blow the doors off of the others. It will be Jarret’s call up to the big leagues; and I’m betting that it will come sooner rather than later.