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Chris Martin, from warehouse to clubhouse

Posted by Craig Forde  May 21, 2013 01:41 PM

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Thumbnail image for CMartinPawSox.jpgLook at the stat sheet and it’s easy to be impressed by the numbers that Pawtucket Red Sox relief pitcher Chris Martin is putting up.

Even more impressive is how he got here in the first place.

A bit of bad luck, intersected by a touch of cookie-cutter Hollywood baseball magic gives us the story of a 6’7”, 26-year-old right handed flame thrower who is one step away from the big leagues.

Drafted by the Detroit Tigers out of Arlington (Tx.) High School in 2004, Martin chose not sign and instead attended McLennan Community College in Waco.

He was again drafted in 2005, this time by the Colorado Rockies, but did not sign and returned to McLennan for his sophomore season.

Then a torn labrum in his right shoulder led to surgery and his dreams of playing professional baseball seemed to be stomped out.

Martin traded in his spikes for a pallet jack and some back support, working in warehouses for the next three years.

“I was doing the dirty work,” said Martin of his odd jobs. “I’d work early at Lowes then go to UPS the same day, and then I got a job at the appliance warehouse.”

This line of work unknowingly led to an unorthodox workout routine as he remained away from the game.

“Dollying refrigerators around, putting washers and dryers up, stocking,” said Martin listing off some of his warehouse duties. “I was thinking about playing, but wasn’t thinking about being in shape. I feel like it actually helped get me a little bit stronger.”

Far from sun drenched baseball fields, growing tired of shifting around heavy appliances and packages, Martin decided to take up a friend’s offer to try out for a local independent team.

He was shocked to find he was not alone when he arrived at the field for what turned out to be an open audition.

“I thought it was just for me,” said Martin of the tryout. “I get there and there are like 80 other guys [trying out] and I was like ‘Oh God’.”

He made the most of it, immediately catching the attention of all who were watching, and signed a contract with the Grand Prairie AirHogs of the American Association playing for former big leaguer Pete Incaviglia.

“[Incaviglia] told me to get a uniform and I pitched that night after the tryouts,” said Martin.

Martin played half of the 2010 season in Grand Prairie posting a 4-0 record with a 1.96 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings and Incaviglia worked his rolodex to spread the word of the special player he had.

He got an offer to tryout for the Red Sox, paid his own way to Fort Myers and though nervous, did enough to earn a contract with Boston.

Two weeks prior to his 25th birthday he made his pro debut with Low-A Greenville.

By the end of the 2011 season Martin had rocketed up three levels to Double-A Portland where he would spend all of the 2012 season before continuing to do work in the Arizona Fall League (10 2/3 IP, 0.84 WHIP, 12 Ks).

At the start of 2013 Martin once again found himself in Portland and was spectacular from the get-go, allowing 9 hits over 21 scoreless innings, striking out 27 in the process.

Those numbers helped him earn a call up to Triple-A Pawtucket on May 13th and he has continued to do the same since his arrival, pleasing manager Gary DiSarcina.

“[Martin has an] explosive fastball down in the zone, good deception and is really tall,” said DiSarcina who has already used Martin on three occasions. “When he lets go of the ball it looks like he is right on top of the hitters.

“He deserved the promotion…he definitely has the stuff.”

Martin’s ability to wrangle a fastball that sits at 94-95 miles – and can top out at 97 – has helped him gain the confidence needed to succeed thus far in his pro career, allowing him to just simply attack with his best stuff once he gets out there.

“I definitely have a lot of confidence in myself right now to go out there and pound the strike zone,” said Martin of his approach on the mound. “I try to get guys off balance and use the fastball to get [batters] out.”

Of course a fastball with that kind of velocity, coming off the fingertips of a 6-foot, 7-inch man standing on a raised hill does not give hitters much time to react and in his 26 innings this season, only 11 have players have been able to reach base by way of the hit.

In 15 appearances between Portland and Pawtucket, Martin has struck out 30 batters, walked only 8 and has a WHIP of 0.73 to go with his non-existent ERA.

“It’s definitely a shock [to be in Triple-A],” said Martin in reflection of where he was just three short years ago. “I don’t even know mentally how I went through it. I just kind of zoned out and tried to do my best and work my way up.”

In less than two weeks he will turn 27, an unlikely age for someone who is in just their third year of playing professional baseball at the affiliated level, but given his path to this point, it is unlikely that he will return to warehouse work anytime soon.

Craig Forde can reached by email at cforde@globe.com and you can follow him on Twitter @OnDeckBDC.
This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Craig Forde covers baseball talent as it develops into the next big thing. He has covered high school and college sports for the Boston Globe, and the minor league teams More »

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