In March, at the end of spring training, Shairon Martis sat across from Doug Harris, the Nationals’ director of player development. Martis had been a major league in 2009, and now the Nationals would not even let him be a minor leaguer. They kept in Florida at the start of the season, and Harris to him explained why.
Harris challenged Martis to change himself. He needed to eat healthier and condition his body better. He needed to change his delivery. Even though he had reached the major leagues at 22, he needed to start over.
“It was,” Harris said, “a difficult conversation for Shairon.”
The conversation also sent Martis on a possible path back to the majors, and last night Martis reached the high point of his reemergent season. He threw a seven-inning no-hitter in for Class AA Harrisburg against New Hampshire, striking out nine and walking only one. The performance highlighted Martis’s quietly excellent season. While throwing 128 innings, Martis has a 2.81 ERA with 143 strikeouts and 38 walks.
In doing so, Martis has followed the directives Harris laid out in March. He changed his diet and took workouts more seriously. He changed his delivery with the help of Harrisburg pitching coach Randy Tomlin, allowing him to throw his fastball – which zips between 88 and 94 mph – with a more effective arm angle and better life. He also throws his curveball with better depth.
“I’m proud him,” Harris said. “He’s taken ownership of his career. I think Shairon has a much better awareness about what it’s going to take to put him in a big league equation.”
Entering this season, Martis became something of an afterthought. The Nationals made him a September call-up in 2008, and he became their No. 4 starter in 2009, when he was barely 22 years old. Martis won the first five decisions of his career, and then the Nationals lost seven of the next eight starts he made. His ERA shot to 5.25. At the end of June, the Nationals shipped him back to the minors, and he all but disappeared.
His career path makes it easy to forget he is still 24, 10 months older than Brad Peacock and a month younger than Tom Milone. Martis hasn’t necessarily made himself into a prospect, but he has put himself back on the map in the Nationals’ organization.
Even if it’s highly unlikely he wins one, the Nationals could even let Martis compete for a rotation spot next spring. That’s a long way from this spring, when the regular season started and Martis stayed in Florida.
“That’s something that we’ll talk about it, him and several other guys,” Harris said. “He has certainly created that conversation. Had he stayed stauts quo going into 2011, he was really just treading water.”
A few other notes from the minor leagues:
>>> A name to keep an eye is Class A Potomac right-hander Paul Demny. He does not have overwhelming numbers – he’s 9-10 with a 4.54 ERA, 102 strikeouts and 53 walks in 136 2/3 innings. But he hit 95 miles per hour last night in Frederick, showing a hard slider as he pitching into the eighth inning and allowed three runs.
Harris said Demny has “grown by leaps and bounds” this season and compared him to Cole Kimball and Brad Peacock as pitchers who broke out at Potomac. The Nationals selected Demny in the sixth round of the 2008 draft, and he just turned 22 at the start of August. “He’s a puppy,” Harris said. “From where he was at the beginning of the year to where he is now, that was really fun to see.”
>>> Tyler Moore hit two more home runs last night to give him 30 this season in Class AA Harrisburg, one shy of his total last year at Class A Potomac. Even with Chris Marrero’s promotion to the majors, the Nationals will keep him in Harrisburg for the rest of the season. They want Moore to experience the playoff race – Harrisburg leads Bowie by four games – and “there’s not a lot of benefit to sending him to Syracuse for eight days,” Harris said.
>>> The Nationals’ top five draft picks – Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer, Brian Goodwin, Matt Purke and Kylin Turnbull – reported to rookie ball at Class A Auburn this week, but they are there only to practice, not to play. The Nationals are treating the experience for them as a week-long “mini-camp” to prepare for the instructional league, Harris said. The Nationals do not want the draft picks to risk injury after their long layoff waiting for their contracts to be finalized.
>>> Bryce Harper hopes to return from his strained hamstring in time to join to Harrisburg for the playoffs, presuming they hold on to their lead. The Nationals have yet to determine if Harper will play in the postseason. “It’s day to day right now,” Harris said. “We’re not going to commit to anything at this point. Everyday is a better day.”