If you don't know the back story, Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore reported on the beginning of Rafael Martin's long, unlikely trip to the majors back in 2010.
After working in construction and playing beer league softball and men's league baseball on Sundays, Martin, at 25, was discovered by Washington playing in the Mexican League, "... after catching a scout's eye at a tryout he attended on a whim," and signed back in 2010 with Nationals' scout Bill Singer saying at the time, "... he's going to play in the big leagues."
"Unbelievable. Everything I expected. It was a good feeling." -- New #Nats reliever Rafael Martin on his electric MLB debut— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 15, 2015
Singer was impressed by what he saw from the right-hander then after he, "... watched Martin throw a plus-sinker, a slider good enough to be an out-pitch in the majors, and two kinds of fastballs."
His stuff was good enough to get five Boston Red Sox' hitters swinging this afternoon in Fenway Park.
Martin made his MLB debut in the 102-year-old ballpark, throwing two scoreless innings on 38 pitches and striking out five straight batters after giving up a one-out hit to Dustin Pedroia in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Martin struck Hanley Ramirez out with a knee-high 90 mph 2-2 heater for the first MLB K of his career and the second out of his first major league inning, then got Allen Craig looking with an 88 mph 0-2 heater inside.
Mike Napoli chased a darting 3-2 fastball outside for K no.3. Shane Victorino chased a 2-2 slider off the plate. Red Sox' infielder Xander Bogaerts worked back from a 3-0 to a 3-2 count and fouled off a few cutters before taking a called strike three inside for the third out of the frame and Martin's fifth straight K.
Rafael Martin is 1st P to K 5 straight batters in his MLB debut since Justin Grimm (6/6/12) & 1st #Nats P to do it since Stras (7) (6/8/10).— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 15, 2015
Nationals' skipper Matt Williams liked what he saw from Martin this Spring, after a 2014 season split between Double and Triple-A in the Nationals' system which saw Martin post a 2.70 ERA, a 2.90 FIP, five walks (2.25 BB/9) and 20 Ks (9.00 K/9) in 20 IP for the Harrisburg Senators and a 0.80 ERA, 1.49 FIP, seven walks (2.25 BB/9) and 42 Ks (11.23 K/9) in 33 ⅔ IP for the Syracuse Chiefs.
"Came in there and filled the strike zone up," Williams said. "We saw that all Spring from him and that's important for our bullpen that we can have a guy that can do that. It's been a little rough the last few days with walking guys, hitting guys, that type of stuff, and today he just filled it up, he was great."
Williams turned to the 30-year-old reliever on Martin's second day in the majors after he was called up yesterday, with Xavier Cedeno DFA'd to make room on the 25-Man roster.
"It's nice to get him out there and get his feet wet," Williams continued.
"In Spring Training he showed us that every time he took the mound. So, more of the same today. It's nice to get out there. Last time out he threw 33 pitches. Today he exceeded that. So he can go multiple innings, it's really valuable."
The Nationals also lost Craig Stammen to the 15-Day DL today, with what was described in a press release as "stiffness" in his right forearm.
Five years after he was signed by the Nationals, Martin is getting his opportunity now and today he proved the scout who spotted and signed him right.