Matt Herges doesn't see Fabio Martinez as just any other Minor League pitcher. He'd like Martinez to take the same view.
"A lot of times, he gets ahead with his fastball, then he'll go right to the spread, the slider or the change, thinking that's what you do," the Rancho Cucamonga pitching coach said. "I'm trying to get him out of that mind-set. I think he can dominate for four innings with just his fastball if he wants."
Martinez, a 24-year-old Dodgers prospect who's pitched with three organizations in the past four years, teased with his potential but frustrated Herges in the process Monday. The right-hander tossed six no-hit innings for the Class A Advanced Quakes, but also walked five and allowed an earned run in a 3-2 loss to the Inland Empire 66ers.
The outing was his second hitless appearances this season after hurling six hitless frames in his season debut, but the lack of base hits wasn't enough to win over Herges.
"I was not real satisfied with what he did today," the coach said. "He's working his butt off to get better. The raw materials are there, no doubt about that, but walking [five] guys at the A-ball level is not going to cut it.
"He knows that and I love that about him. He wants to get better. The stuff is better than this league. The reason he's here is his command."
The stuff Herges referred to begins with a fastball that touches 98 mph with heavy sink. Herges said the downward movement is so sharp, he sometimes wonders if Martinez has crossed up his catcher and thrown a slider instead -- "Then I look at the gun and it says, '97,'" he said.
Martinez's sinking fastball helped keep Rancho Cucamonga's infielders busy Monday, with 11 of his 18 outs coming via groundout. He also struck out four.
"It says it's hard on the radar gun, but it has that life on the end of it," Herges said. "That's really hard to hit."
The fastball helped Martinez work effectively through the first few innings. He compiled a strikeout, a walk and then a ground-ball double play in the first, then a strikeout, a walk and two groundouts in the second. He used a pickoff to work a 1-2-3 third despite a leadoff walk, then retired the side in order in the fourth and fifth.
Martinez walked Andrew Ray to start the sixth, and the 66ers infielder quickly moved to third on a steal and a sacrifice bunt. Ray then scored on Sherman Johnson's groundout for Inland Empire's first run.
Where Herges said Martinez gets in trouble -- like he did late Monday -- is in controlling his fastball and using it to effectively set up his secondary pitches. The hurler is in the habit of going to his offspeed pitches with regularity, mixing his three-pitch mix in a fashion befitting hurlers with lesser velocity.
"I get frustrated with him when he goes straight to the [offspeed] when he gets ahead with the fastball," Herges said. "They haven't earned the right to see an offspeed pitch, if that makes sense.
"He does have the offspeed pitches. He has a good change and a good slider. But you don't have to show all your cards. We're trying to get him to understand that."
Beyond that, the pitching coach also wants to see Martinez sharpen his fastball command, something that will help in the long term whether he remains a starter or moves to the bullpen. Herges said he could envision Martinez finding a big league job in either role, and Martinez has Minor League experience in both -- all 23 of his appearances in Cleveland's farm system last year were in relief.
Herges is optimistic Martinez will make strides with his command and sequencing. Signed as a Minor League free agent by the Dodgers this offseason, Martinez has earned rave reviews from Herges for his makeup, a promising sign for the hurler with big stuff but limited Minor League success.
"He's getting better," Herges said. "The kid works his butt off. His work ethic is where we want it to be and where he needs it to be. He's open. He wants to learn, wants to get better.
"That's what's so encouraging about Fabio. He has an arm you don't see very often, and he's not just sitting on that. He wants to have command and he wants to pitch in the Major Leagues."