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Martis Makes Compelling Case

Scoreless Innings Seem to Lock Up A Rotation Spot

Nationals starting pitcher Shairon Martis tossed six shutout innings, striking out four Orioles in what should be his penultimate spring training outing.
Nationals starting pitcher Shairon Martis tossed six shutout innings, striking out four Orioles in what should be his penultimate spring training outing. (By Richard Drew -- Associated Press)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 25, 2009; Page E04

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., March 24 -- This wasn't just a nice little spring training outing, a couple of innings against some scrubs in the sun. Washington Nationals starter Shairon Martis took the mound Tuesday against a strong lineup, with his immediate future on the line.

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And he threw six scoreless innings.

In the Nationals' 3-1 spring training victory over the Baltimore Orioles, Martis allowed just three hits, struck out four, walked one and did everything a 21-year-old with five major league appearances can do to all but clinch a spot in the Nationals' starting rotation.

"He really helped his chances," Nationals Manager Manny Acta said, declining to offer a final decision on his fourth and fifth starting pitchers. "All spring he's done it."

Martis, a right-hander who began the spring competing for a place in the bullpen, has a 1.42 ERA in six appearances. In 22 innings, he has allowed only 3 runs, 12 hits and 5 walks. He has struck out 13 heading toward his final scheduled spring start.

"Today was a really good day for me," Martis said. "I'm doing my job. The decision is for them."

Martis got in trouble briefly in the fourth against the Orioles' top of the order, and the way he got out of the mess by retiring the Orioles' No. 4 and 6 hitters (Aubrey Huff and Matt Wieters) showed Acta something about Martis's cool.

"That tells you a guy like him is not going to be rattled too often up here because of his age," Acta said. "I like the fact it was the heart of the order."

Martis showed great command from the start, allowing just an infield single in the first three innings. In the fourth, he hit leadoff man Ryan Freel in the hand, but then struck out Adam Jones. He allowed a single to left to Nick Markakis, but got Huff to ground out to first base. After walking Ty Wigginton to load the bases, Martis got Wieters out on a high fly to center field.

Martis watched Corey Patterson gather in the inning's final out, then punched his glove in satisfaction.

"We don't want to be in that situation," catcher Wil Nieves said. "But if we're in that situation, he showed he can handle it. That's something that's real important."

Officially, Martis is battling for the fourth or fifth spot with Collin Balester and Jordan Zimmermann, but in reality he seems to be honing in on the fourth position. Balester, who has given up 13 runs in 20 innings this spring, seems likely to land at Class AAA Syracuse. Zimmermann, who has given up five runs in 13 innings, has impressed Acta, but since he is not on the team's 40-man roster and Washington won't need its fifth starter until April 19, he seems the probable candidate for that last starting slot.

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