“[Cedeño] had struggled a little bit this year,” Rizzo said. “He’s out of [minor league] options. It was the thing to create the roster spot for Martin was to designate him.”
Cedeño made the team on the final day before the season, winning the second left-handed relief spot in the bullpen over veteran Rich Hill. Cedeño pitched well at Syracuse from 2013 to 2014, but bounced back and forth between there and majors 11 times.
But in his brief stint with the Nationals in the majors this season, Cedeño was used a lot. Although he pitched a full inning only twice, he appeared in five of the Nationals’ first seven games. He warmed up but didn’t enter a game at least one other time.
Asked if the Nationals used him too much, Williams balked at the notion.
“Everybody’s pitched,” he said. “We’ve had two extra-inning games and (Monday’s) game. (Monday) he pitched fine. Pitched an inning, got out of it. Pitched an inning a day before, gave up the homer, but got the rest of the guys out. So I can’t say it’s too much for him. I would imagine that if we didn’t have to make that move that he would have come to us today and said he was available today. Doesn’t mean we would’ve used him. But it’s the move we’ve gotta make.”
Added Rizzo: “That’s what relievers do, you know. A situational lefty … We don’t get caught up in strictly appearances. It’s innings, pitches and that type of thing. And if he’s capable of doing it and if he’s done it before. We thought that he was capable of doing it. He’s done it before.”
Cedeño was viewed as a situational left-hander by the Nationals but, of the 15 batters he faced this season, nine of them were right-handed. They hit 2 for 7 off him with two walks. Left-handers were 1 for 5 with no walks.
The Nationals will now turn to Martin to help fill the void in the bullpen. Martin, 30, took a unique path to the majors. He didn’t begin his career in professional baseball until he was 25 after working construction at home in Riverside, Calif. He pitched in Mexico after catching a scout’s eye at a tryout. He developed into a legitimate commodity there, eventually signing with the Nationals in 2010. He bounced back from a shoulder cleanup surgery in 2012 and an elbow cleanup in 2013.
“It’s something unique but I’m proud of (of my journey) and finally got the opportunity and now to make the best of it,” Martin said.
Last year, Martin posted a 1.39 ERA across three levels over 58 1/3 innings, including an 0.80 ERA at Syracuse thanks to strong command and a wickedly spinning slider. He was scored on in only two of his 38 outings last season. Both times, he had two outs. He was two outs away from a perfect season.
“He’s capable of throwing multiple innings,” Rizzo said. “And we reward him for a hell of a season last year, too. He’s a great story. He’s got stuff. He showed us in spring training that he could get guys out. That’s the reason in a nutshell.”
Martin was with Syracuse at Lehigh Valley on Monday night when Manager Billy Gardner and assistant general manager of player development Doug Harris called him into the office to deliver the news.
“I was kinda speechless,” Martin said. “I was like, ‘You guys playing with me? What’s going on?’ I just looked around and everybody was smiling and happy for me. A special day.”
Martin called his parents in California. He arrived in Boston on Tuesday afternoon. His wife drove from Lehigh Valley to Boston. He hasn’t pitched since Saturday so he said he’s ready to pitch if needed at Fenway Park.
“It’s something special, if I have to make my debut here,” he said.