Rough day for Phillies prospects Ethan Martin, Jonathan Pettibone

The Phillies' Jonathan Pettibone allowed four runs and nine hits in 22/3 innings of work.
The Phillies' Jonathan Pettibone allowed four runs and nine hits in 22/3 innings of work. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff)
Posted: March 07, 2013

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Ethan Martin iced his right arm and tapped on his smartphone as the carnage unfolded Tuesday on a TV above him. The back door to the Phillies clubhouse at Bright House Field opened and Jonathan Pettibone stepped inside.

The two pitching prospects blankly stared at each another.

"You give up any home runs?" Martin asked.

"Yeah," Pettibone said. "One."

Before the Dominican Republic team began competition in the World Baseball Classic, the group of stars assembled here to face the Phillies in an exhibition game. They scored 15 runs on 28 hits. They bashed Cole Hamels, the Phillies' likely opening-day starter, who said he threw more fastballs than he typically would because commanding that pitch was his project for the day.

Later, it was trial by fire for Martin and Pettibone, two of the organization's better pitching prospects and possible options if the team needs rotation help in the majors. Pettibone was lashed for four runs and nine hits in 22/3 innings. Martin, acquired in the Shane Victorino trade last summer, allowed three runs and six hits.

"At first I was upset for what I did, giving up three runs, this and that," Martin said. "You come back in and you're like, 'That's pretty impressive, the lineup you just had to pitch against.' "

This is Martin's first major-league camp. The former first-round draft pick has a power arm and should start the season at triple A.

But there he was Tuesday, with Robinson Cano standing 60 feet, 6 inches from him. The pitch was meant to be a curveball on the outer half. It floated down and inside, right where Cano wanted it.

Cano dropped his bat and watched the ball fly over the right-field fence.

"They hit me pretty good," Martin said.

Martin, 23, baffled hitters during his second season at double A. Between Chattanooga and Reading, he allowed a mere 118 hits in 1572/3 innings. His ERA was 3.48. Walks were a festering problem; Martin issued 79 of them. He struck out 8.4 batters per nine innings.

Martin called the 2012 season "a blessing in disguise." Two days before the trade deadline, he was told by a Dodgers official not to worry. He was not being dealt.

On the morning of July 31, Martin was in bed in Birmingham, Ala., when his phone buzzed. It was a Los Angeles area code.

"All right, this is it," Martin said. "I answered and the rest of that day was crazy."

On good days, Martin's fastball reaches 96 m.p.h. Sometimes, he has to back down because his command suffers with higher velocity.

"He has a big arm," said Steven Lerud, who caught Martin at Reading. "He has a chance to be a four-pitch guy with a power arsenal. He is not afraid of anybody. He'll come after you. You kind of have to pull the reins back on him sometimes to slow him down. He's going to be exciting."

That is a mentality Martin said he lacked until Chuck Crim, then the pitching coach at double-A Chattanooga, demanded more. Martin said he fretted too much about his mechanics.

"This is on you now," Martin recalled Crim saying. "You're old enough to where you have to figure out how to get outs. I'm not talking to you about mechanics. You need to figure out how to get people out on the mound."

"I didn't think much anymore about what was wrong with my delivery," Martin said. "I went ahead and started attacking hitters."

That was his approach Tuesday when Rich Dubee dropped the ball in Martin's hands after Hamels was shelled. There were no words of advice from the pitching coach. "They did fine," Dubee later said of his two young pitchers.

"If they hit you, they're going to hit you," Martin said. "You learn from what you're doing."


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com. Follow @magelb on Twitter.

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