SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) - Texas Rangers reliever Chris Martin won’t need help finding his home ballpark. It is home.
The right-hander went to Arlington High School, not far from Globe Life Park.
“In Arlington, I probably know every street, every back road,” Martin said. “I can tell you every inch of Arlington.”
Martin, however, took a circuitous journey to get to pitch for his hometown team. He spent the last two years pitching in Japan following his first stint in the majors.
“Going from 6,000 miles away to 30 minutes from home, it’s a blessing,” Martin said. “I’m really excited about it.”
Martin was selected by Detroit in the 18th round in the 2004 draft out of high school, but opted to go to McLennan Community College. Colorado drafted him in the 21st round after his freshman season in junior college. He decided to go back to school, but tore his right labrum.
He had surgery in 2007 and did not pitch for three years. He worked for UPS loading trucks. He worked for Lowe’s and an appliance company.
“Some not-so-fun jobs,” Martin said. “I decided my arm was feeling better and I’d take another shot at it.”
He went to a Grand Prairie AirHogs tryout, an independent league club in the Dallas area. It cost $50 to try out, and the 6-foot-8 Martin was signed.
After a year in the American Association, Martin signed with Boston and was traded twice. He went 0-2 with a 6.19 ERA in 40 big league appearances with the New York Yankees and Rockies.
The Yankees released him after the 2015 season and he signed with Hokkaido in Japan, finishing with a 1.12 ERA and 22 saves while holding hitters to a .154 average in two seasons.
Martin gives some credit to former teammate and two-way star Shohei Ohtani to him signing a $4 million, two-year contract in December. Otani is preparing for his anticipated debut with the Los Angeles Angels.
“There were a lot of scouts coming to watch him and I think they stumbled upon me doing well over there,” Martin said. “He’s going to be really fun to watch. I’m excited to see what he can do over here.”
The 31-year-old Martin believes the time in Japan made him better.
“I don’t think it’s like a drastic change in the type of pitcher I am,” he said. “I think I just learned some little things over in Japan. I learned how to hold runners, how to field my position, how to throw quality balls. Over there, they are super aggressive. They’re trying not to strike out.”
Rangers manager Jeff Banister compares Martin to former Texas pitcher Chris Young, who is 6-10 and also from the Dallas area.
“When Chris was with the Yankees, he was a very spirited competitor,” Banister said. “Don’t let the quiet guy fool you because I’ve seen him be a very spirited competitor. He creates a lot of angle being a very tall guy, somewhat Chris Young-like in a sense that he’s got a fastball that he can create some hop at the top of the strike zone and an angle at the bottom of the strike zone.
“He went over to Japan and really kind of earned the next part of his pitching career. … He seems to be a very dedicated, disciplined guy.”
Martin calls it a “cool story” on going from a teenage prospect, to arm surgery, to delivery boy and out of baseball for three years to signing with the Rangers.
“It’s crazy. It’s awesome, a surreal moment,” he said. “I can’t wait to get to Globe Life and pitch.”
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