Martin is Pittsburgh’s Loss, Cleveland’s Gain

If you know me, or have read my author bio on this site, you know that I went to college outside of Pittsburgh. As a Cleveland native, this was not easy. I found myself constantly locked in battles to prove why things such as Great Lakes Brewery are better than Primanti Brothers. Burning rivers are obviously more impressive than three rivers, right?

So when I read that Enterprise, Alabama, native Josh Martin had originally been drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 25th round of the 2011 MLB draft, but did not sign, I was selfishly elated. Anything that is Pittsburgh’s loss and Cleveland’s gain is more than okay by me.

And, despite a shaky start to the season, Martin is working to prove that he truly is a Cleveland gain.

The 6’5″ right-handed pitcher is 3-3 on the season. He posts a 3.57 ERA, with one save and 38 strikeouts in the 19 games in which he’s appeared. He’s improving on his 2012 numbers, a season that ended with an overall 4.24 ERA and a 4-2 season record, reflecting time spent at both Mahoning Valley and High-A Carolina. He threw a total of 45 strikeouts in his 51.0 innings pitched, giving up seven home runs.

“I started off a little rough with command issues that I was able to work out through my first few outings,” Martin said. “Once [pitching coach Steve] Karsay worked with me, we ironed that out and did pretty well. I feel pretty good about how things have been going this season. In the second half of the season, I would like to be a little more consistent with good outings and limit the roller coaster ups and downs that I had the first half.”

Martin also described the atmosphere of the 2013 Lake County Captains as a positive reflection on the season thus far.

“I think the best part [of playing with the Captains] would be the hodgepodge of players that we have. Our team ranges from 18 year-old Latin players to 23 year-old college grads like Jack Wagoner and myself,” Martin said. “Everybody learns a little from each other and playing this many games with the same guys, you can noticeably see development in guys into better baseball players. That’s fun for me as the ‘old guy’ on the team to see guys change and adjust to this game and be better overall for it.”

Martin himself has noticed the difference that can happen in a player, as he has experienced setbacks and advances of his own throughout the first half of the season.

“Several weeks ago, I had some shoulder issues that I tried to pitch through and gave up four runs to Lansing which set me back a little,” Martin recalled. “Since then, the ball has been rolling my way with the exception of a few more home runs than I would have liked to have given up.”

Martin has given up five home runs this season, the fourth most on the team. However, his strikeout count is fifth highest on the team, showcasing the strengths of his two main pitches, a fastball and a curveball.

“I’m still struggling with a third pitch right now which is frustrating; my changeup is not a good pitch to say the least,” Martin admitted. “I’m working on that day-by-day and experimenting with a few things for next season.”

When looking at next season, Martin said that he does not have specific expectation of his advancement and placement in the system.

“I’m really just taking things one pitch at a time right now,” Martin said. “I’ve learned that the best way to work through the ranks is to not have expectations when it comes to pitching roles and just do what I can when they give me the ball.”

This approach has served Martin well throughout his baseball career, although the decisions facing him during his journey were not always the easiest to make. Martin was attending Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, when the Pirates drafted him after his junior year.

“It was a difficult decision,” Martin said. “I mean, you see a path to your childhood dream open up in front of you and it’s hard not to take it. I even told my pitching coach that I was going to sign. He said he didn’t think it was the right choice but he supported me.

“I sat down with my head coach and helped me put things in perspective. He helped me realize that I had a rough season that year and wanted to prove that I could do better. I was on track to get my degree, I as surrounded by a great group of guys that I loved like brothers and we had unfinished business when it came to bringing a conference title to our school. When I decided to go back, it was like a weight was listed off of my shoulders.”

Martin did indeed prove that he could do better, ending his 2012 senior season with a 12-2 record that tied for the national lead in wins. He led his college team with 95 strikeouts, and, upon ending his collegiate career in 2012, Martin was Samford’s all-time leader in wins with 24.

Martin was then drafted in the 10th round of the 2012 MLB Draft by the Cleveland Indians, again proving he could do better than his previous 25th round selection.

Cleveland took what Pittsburgh had missed out on the year before, and Martin claims that being part of the major league organization has been his biggest success throughout his baseball career thus far.

“My biggest accomplishment would just be being here in general,” he said. “I came from a high school, not known for its baseball team, not highly recruited and walked on at Samford. From there, I just kept working and improving and now, I’m living the dream. I can call baseball my job.”

Living the dream by playing baseball in the Cleveland Indians organization? Having a weight lifted off his shoulders when he didn’t sign with the Pirates? If any of my college classmates are reading this, I would just like to point out that Cleveland has bested the ‘Burgh once again.

And, if Martin’s goals of consistency and improvement come into fruition during this second half, hopefully those winning ways will continue for quite some time.

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