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Nick Martinez is the utility pitcher the Rangers need

Nick Martinez is the utility pitcher the Rangers need

Credit: Getty Images

ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 18: Starting pitcher Nick Martinez #22 of the Texas Rangers throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Globe Life Park on May 18, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images)

by LANDON HAAF

WFAA Sports

Posted on May 18, 2014 at 6:43 PM

Updated Monday, May 19 at 12:02 AM

Nick Martinez's story has been told a number of times this season. But it's a story that keeps writing itself, and each chapter has been just as captivating as the last.

Just as authors put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, in this day and age), Martinez has put toe to rubber and authored quite the tale of an underdog protagonist.

Slated as a key piece for the Frisco RoughRiders at the season's commencement, he was an eleventh-hour replacement for a banged-up Yu Darvish, who was scratched from his Opening Day start. He has gone from a pitcher who had only gotten his feet wet in Double-A to being an all-purpose hurler for an ailing major league staff.

Martinez made his first start since April 22 on Sunday, making 84 pitches last five innings in a 6-2 win. The expectation for Martinez, who had thrown a total of 6.2 innings in the month of May, was well shy of 84 pitches.

"Everything was working for me, I felt strong," Martinez said. "I don't think my velo (velocity) dropped at all."

Manager Ron Washington said after Martinez's start that he did everything the team could've asked him to do.

"He showed poise, he showed pitchability, he had a good changeup. He was hitting the bottom part of the zone with regularity," Wash said. "We needed him to go as deep as he possibly could."

Washington tends to be a broken record whenever asked about any "message" he has for his starting pitchers, be it Yu Darvish or Nick Martinez: "keep us in the ballgame."

And that's exactly what Martinez has done.

Martinez says his main goal is to help the team win no matter the capacity in which he is used.

And that's exactly what he's done.

Martinez lowered his season ERA to 2.28 with his five innings and just one run allowed. That mark stands at 3.38 in 16 innings as a starter, and 0.77 as a reliever. He has been asked to throw as little as one inning of relief (May 8 vs. Colorado) and as much as five innings of relief (April 28 vs. Oakland).

While the battered Rangers' pitching staff seems to be falling apart, Martinez has been the adhesive to keep it together.

He has started on the road against two playoff contenders to open the season. He has been an inning-saver in mop-up duty in a 14-3 game. And he's also recorded two holds in tight ballgames.

Now, he's back in the starting rotation that took a likely 40 percent reduction last week.

"As a starter I'm just going to try to get in that groove, and try to accumulate a few good starts in a row to give this team a chance to win."

He insists that whether he is used in relief or as a starter doesn't matter to him, but he likes the role he now occupies.

"I prefer starting, it's an easier routine to get into," he said.

Given the long-term nature of the injuries to Martin Perez and Matt Harrison, Martinez could be following that routine for some time. He knows, though, that things can continue to change.

"I don't count my days here," he said. "I don't worry about where I'm going to pitch, whether it's going to be in the rotation, as a reliever or in the minor leagues. I'm just worried about helping my team win."

Whatever he does or doesn't worry about, he should probably stick to that gameplan. He's a manager's pitcher. He's a pitcher's pitcher. And he's helping his team find the win column.

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