Gwinnett Braves starter Cody Martin has put a two-seam fastball, which he used during his college career at Gonzaga, back into his arsenal. (Photo: Karl Moore)
LAWRENCEVILLE — He threw it during a bullpen session.
With pitching coach Marty Reed looking on and catcher Matt Pagnozzi crouched on the other end, Cody Martin delivered a two-seam fastball. It was a pitch he used during his college career at Gonzaga but had shied away from since the Braves drafted the 23-year-old right hander in the seventh round in 2011.
“We had him throw it a few times and when he threw it it was like, ‘Hey, that’s pretty good,’” the pitching coach Reed said. “It’s too good not to throw.”
So Martin added it to his arsenal already stocked with a four-seam fastball, slider, curveball and change-up. The addition all went toward the young pitcher’s progression through the minor leagues; a proactive attack at his development. At that point this season, Martin hadn’t struggled much.
In 16 appearances with Class AA Mississippi, Martin was 3-3 with a 2.82 ERA. Since joining the M-Braves’ rotation, Martin threw at least five innings in all of his starts and only once allowed more than two earned runs in an outing. He came to Gwinnett and allowed just three runs in his first 21 innings.
“When he first came up he was really good,” Reed said. “You can’t expect a guy to come up and do what he did the first three outings here.”
So whether it was regression, return to the mean or the league getting some better reports on Martin, the consistency faded, but only slightly. He lost his first game in his fourth start, lasting just five innings and five days later against Norfolk delivered his only clunker of the season. At home against the Tides, Martin went just 3 2/3 innings and allowed five runs off eight hits and walked six batters.
But Martin rebounded, he picked up a four-inning save in a piggy-back performance with major league rehab pitcher Brandon Beachy. He allowed three runs in his next start and then turned in his most recent performance on Wednesday going eight strong innings and allowing just one run. And most importantly he only walked two.
“I worked on some stuff with my mechanics to throw more strikes,” Martin said. “I’ve walked a lot more people since I got here than I ever have in my entire life.”
In Martin’s first 46 2/3 innings since his promotion, he walked 21 batters, compared to 27 walks in 67 innings with Mississippi this season.
“It’s a lot more maturity when it comes to the hitters,” Martin said. “It’s a lot different than double-A where it’s a lot of the young prospects. It just knowing how to pitch and really setting guys up is what to key on and I think I’ve been able to do that pretty well.”
Reed also credited the preparation of the Braves 13th ranked prospect according to Baseball America for his success. The G-Braves provide detailed scouting reports before outings and Martin began spending his bullpen sessions focused on throwing quality pitches rather than just racking up a pitch count to get through the workout.
“I liken it to taking a test, if you are prepared for it and have an understanding about it when you get out there you really not that nervous,” Reed said. “If you haven’t studied up on it and you are figuring it out for the first time you get a little nervous when things start going crazy.”
Martin’s learned to trust his defense, relying on it to make outs on balls in play. During his eight-inning outing the G-Braves defense twice threw out runners at home plate. Mix his trust with his study and effort between starts, sprinkle in his ability and Martin’s success is less of a surprise. Even if it’s not perfected.
“It’s just subtle (differences), it’s still baseball,” Martin said. “If you make pitches you are going to do well.
“I’ve done pretty well for myself. It’s all about progressing.”