By Bob Wirz
Chris Martin does not have the big name of fellow American Association grads Max Scherzer and James Paxton, still he seems to have a degree of security in the major leagues as long as he stays healthy despite a shaky spring training. At 32, the 6-foot-8 right-hander is one of the veterans of the Texas Rangers bullpen, possibly a set-up man in his second season with the team.
“I want to be the guy that the young guys look up to,” he said to MLB.com during the winter. “(I’ll) do my best to make that happen.”
Martin has had one interesting career since breaking into professional baseball in the American Association (Grand Prairie) back in 2010. Texas is his fourth major league organization (Boston, Colorado, New York Yankees), and he spent both the ’16 and ’17 seasons relieving for the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan.
He finally got established in the majors last season, largely because of his great control. He had the fourth lowest walks per nine innings (1.08) in the American League. “I felt I had a good year (46 appearances, 1-5, 14 holds, 4.54 ERA) minus the health stuff”, he said, something of an understatement since he was on the disabled list three times with three different injuries.
It is a good thing the Rangers already appreciate his ability since he struggled this spring until a recent outing against Arizona when he retired all four batters he faced, including three strikeouts.
“That was good,” manager Chris Woodward told MLB.com. “He has had a couple of lack-of-results outings. He said he’s felt great, but today it was good to get him out there and have some success. He was overpowering their guys.”
Kickham Impressing Marlins
Former Kansas City T-Bones starter Mike Kickham still has a chance of being part of the Miami Marlins bullpen. Manager Don Mattingly would like to have more than one left-hander, and Kickham has had a good spring training with a 1.50 earned run average for his seven appearances. He helped close out a game against Washington with two strikeouts as the young Marlins won the 10th Grapefruit League game in a row, a streak that reached 11 before ending.
“There’s probably more moving parts there, in the rotation and the bullpen, than any other place for us,” Mattingly told MLB.com.
One thing against the 6-foot-4 Kickham is a spot on the 40-man roster will need to be created before he is added. The non-roster hurler had brief stints with San Francisco in ’13-’14, and he turned in a solid 2.83 ERA in 14 starts for the T-Bones in 2016 although he won only three of eight decisions.