BALTIMORE — Chris Martin’s season is over. The Red Sox placed the reliever on the injured list with a viral infection prior to Thursday night’s game against the Orioles and recalled Nick Robertson from Triple A Worcester.
Martin, a free agent acquisition last offseason, posted a 1.05 ERA in 51⅓ innings, the lowest of any pitcher in the majors with at least 30 innings this season. The righthander had a career-high 20 consecutive scoreless appearances since July 30, tossing 19 innings in that span.
Martin walked just eight batters, or just 1.4 per nine innings. He yielded just two homers: April 10 against the Rays and July 28 against the Giants, which was also the last time he surrendered an earned run.
“He was outstanding,” manager Alex Cora said. “It’s not just the strike-throwing, it’s the quality of the strike. [He’s pitched in] different roles. He came in during the seventh with bases loaded and two outs. He came in for the ninth. He was ready every day. Very knowledgeable. He knows what he needs to do to get people out.”
Cora first took notice of Martin’s ability when the reliever was with the Braves in 2019, turning to then-Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and envisioning Martin as a fit.
The Red Sox bullpen lacked structure and performance last year, particularly at the back end. So, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom went out and signed Martin and Kenley Jansen.
Martin, who will be entering his age-38 season next year, has made a great impression not just on Cora, but his teammates as well.
“He shares information with his teammates,” Cora said. “I knew he was good, but this is better than expected, to be honest with you, because I didn’t know the person. Just seeing him around the guys in the bullpen is a big part of what Nick [Pivetta] is doing right now. When he went [to the bullpen], he talked to him about being aggressive, using your best pitches as much as possible, don’t waste pitches, like attack mode. We knew from the previous seasons and earlier this year, Nick was shying away from the zone. Whatever he told Nick, it changed his season and maybe his career.”
Cora saw it coming
The Orioles entered Thursday’s game on the brink of the American League East title (their first since 2014) and their first 100-win season since 1980. It did not come as a surprise to Cora, who back in 2021 felt as though the Orioles were on the cusp of something special, giving credit to general manager Mike Elias and assistant GM Sig Mejdal, who, like Cora, were previously with the Astros.
“Mike and Sig, they saw it from scratch,” said Cora. “When you look at those guys over there, they all have plate discipline. [Anthony] Santander had a chance to play as a Rule 5 guy, and he learned at the big-league level. [Cedric] Mullins, he decided to [abandon switch-hitting] and hit just from the left side.”
Cora also alluded to how the Baltimore hitters keep their hands close to their body, a counter to the high velocity that continues to dominate the game.
“There’s something about what they are doing in player development that is working here at the big-league level,” said Cora. “This weekend is going to be fun here. Obviously, they deserve everything that they’re about to do, and it’s been fun from afar to watch. I tip my hat as a manager.”