Martin latest Nats hurler to make debut

Martin latest Nats hurler to debut

WASHINGTON -- For the 54th time in the first 91 games, the Nationals will send out a rookie as their starting pitcher Monday against the Mets. It will be the fourth time this year that a Washington rookie will be making his first career start.

This time, it will be 26-year-old right-hander J.D. Martin, who will toe the rubber at Nationals Park. Martin, who is filling in for an injured Scott Olsen, has been the most consistent pitcher for Triple-A Syracuse, going 8-3 in 15 starts with a 2.66 ERA.

"He's been a strike-thrower and understands holding runners and the finer points of pitching -- [such as] pitching to both sides of the plate," manager Jim Riggleman said. "He's not an overpowering guy, but he's a professional pitcher and he's earned the right to get up here and see if he can do it against Major League hitters."

Martin's fastball clocks in the high-80s, at best, but he locates it well while mixing in a cutter and changeup. At Syracuse, he had a better than 6:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. General manager Mike Rizzo compared Martin to fellow Nationals rookie Craig Stammen, because of the two pitchers' command.

A first-round sandwich pick (35th overall) by Cleveland in 2001, Martin never cracked the big leagues in eight professional seasons in the Indians organization.

Two arm injuries, a Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery and 134 career Minor League starts later, and he'll finally get a chance to test his mettle against the best in the game.

Pitching coach Steve McCatty's advice to the hurler: "Just go out and relax. Enjoy it. Don't overthink and become something different than what you were when you had success down in Triple-A. Stay within yourself, do what you do and throw strikes."

The Nationals signed Martin to a Minor League deal in offseason, but did not anticipate him making such an early debut with the big league club because of their backlog of young pitchers.

The Nationals rotation, however, ended up being a work in progress. Daniel Cabrera was released in May. Shairon Martis was sent down to the Minors to make room for an Olsen return. Ross Detwiler, who was called up initially to replace Olsen in May, was sent down after a rough 10-start term.

With Olsen hurt again (his long-term diagnosis is unknown), the Nationals needed another arm to start Monday and potentially beyond. Mindful early in the week that they might need a replacement, Rizzo made sure that the "deserving" Martin would be on schedule to be available.

"I keep telling people, in a sense, this reminds me of when I was [a rookie] in Oakland," McCatty said. "We were young guys, and we had to learn what we were doing. We only won 54 games in '79. Then the next year we won [83], and then the next year we won the division."

For the time being, Martin will be asked only to win one, or at least keep the Nationals in the ballgame.

Pitching matchup
WSH: RHP J.D. Martin (Major League debut)
Martin throws his fastball in the mid to high-80s and also offers a cutter and a changeup. His command is what has made him successful in Triple-A this season, as he's struck out 66 batters while yielding only 10 walks.

NYM: RHP Livan Hernandez (5-5, 5.10 ERA)
Hernandez has lost his past four starts, and the Mets have lost his past six. But before he allowed seven and eight runs in his two most recent games, he produced a 3.00 ERA in three successive starts. He pitched merely seven innings total in his July losses to the Phillies and Dodgers, allowing 21 hits and eight walks. But he has beaten the Nats twice in two starts this season. Hernandez pitched the Mets' only complete game against the Nationals at Citi Field on May 26, allowing one run. Twelve days later, he pitched seven scoreless innings against them. Ronnie Belliard, Corey Patterson, Austin Kearns, Josh Willingham and Cristian Guzman have a composite .442 average in 95 at-bats against Hernandez.

Tidbits
With his 24th home run on Sunday, Adam Dunn broke teammate Nick Johnson's record for most home runs by a Nationals left-handed batter. Johnson hit 23 in 2006. Dunn now has 39 career home runs against the Cubs -- the most he's hit against any club. ... With two more hits Sunday, Nyjer Morgan is batting .367 (22-for-60) since joining the Nationals.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• MASN 2

On radio
• WFED 1500, SBN 1390 (Español), ESPN 730 (Sp.)

Up next
• Tuesday: Nationals (John Lannan, 6-7, 3.64) vs. Mets (Oliver Perez, 2-2, 7.99), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Nationals (Craig Stammen, 2-5, 4.46) vs. Mets (Mike Pelfrey, 7-5, 5.07), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Nationals (TBD) vs. Cardinals (TBD), 7:05 p.m. ET

Mark Selig is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.