He had always struggled with command, but now on the mound he'd dwell on the walks, and the walks compounded. Those, he said, "snowballed into runs."
That beginning is all but forgotten. Since then, in 11 starts before Friday, the righthander was 8-1 with a 3.50 ERA, and is 9-4, 4.81 overall after Friday's loss to Syracuse. He was recently named the International League pitcher of the week. He is arguably the Phillies' best prospect not named Jesse Biddle, and is a pitcher Lehigh Valley pitching coach Ray Burris said has the ability to be a mainstay for the Phillies.
"Once he gets better on his command," Burris said, "I think you'll see a young man long-term, down the road, that can be a horse in a rotation."
Martin and the Lehigh Valley coaching staff attribute the turnaround to Martin's own ability to forget. He has always possessed enough tools. His fastball hovers around 93 m.p.h. and tops out at 96. He has confidence in four pitches, with a sharp slider, a curveball, and a split-finger change-up.
But he labored often and couldn't find the proper tempo. He didn't make adjustments. And most of all, each walk echoed in his head.
"It was kind of like, aw dang, there's two balls already," Martin said. "Don't make another mistake because then you're going to get a walk."
But as Martin toughened mentally, the walks dipped and Martin has dominated. MLB.com ranks Martin as the Phillies' No. 2 prospect, behind Biddle, and 69th in all of baseball. When Martin has walked three or fewer this season, he is 7-0 with a 2.92 ERA. When he walks four or more, his ERA is four runs higher.
In Martin's red-hot May and June, Burris said, Martin's pace has quickened, which shows Burris that Martin is no longer dwelling on past pitches. For a pitcher with Martin's arm, that can be the difference between a flameout and a major-league starter.
Take Martin's start June 30 against the Toledo Mud Hens. He walked the first batter of the second inning. Then he walked the next batter.
But this time he didn't waver. Two batters and two groundouts later, he was out of the inning with no runs allowed. He went on to pitch eight scoreless innings.
"Those experiences from dealing with failure I think sometimes allows you to have success down the road," said Lehigh Valley manager Dave Brundage. "And I think he's gone through that."
Contact Zach Helfand at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @zhelfand.