A year ago, it seemed that the best place for Ethan Martin might be in the bullpen. But after his first seven starts this year, he seems to be meant to be a starter.
The Dodgers' No. 8 prospect threw 6 1/3 no-hit innings Thursday as the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts took down the Montgomery Biscuits, 11-1.
Martin (4-0) ended up giving up one run on two hits over seven frames. He struck out seven and walked two.
"I was hitting my spots and throwing everything for strikes, keeping hitters off balance," he said. "The defense played great behind me."
The 22-year-old right-hander allowed two baserunners in the first three innings, but faced the minimum number of batters because of a double play and a runner caught stealing. Following a one-out walk to Tyler Bortnick in the fourth, Martin retired nine straight batters before Kyeong Kang broke up the no-hitter with a one-out double in the seventh.
"I fell behind, I think 3-1," Martin said. "Once I fell behind -- it was an 11-0 ballgame -- I couldn't afford any walks. I gave him a pitch to hit and he hit it to left field."
Martin had been aware of his no-hit bid since the fourth inning. Though he was disappointed following the two-bagger, he tried to keep it in perspective.
"He made a good swing, and I got myself into that situation," he said. "I tip my hat to him, he's got a job just like I do. It hurt because I wanted it, but he did his job. That's the way baseball goes."
Martin yielded a run-scoring single to Omar Luna two batters later, but got Michael Sheridan to line out to shortstop for the final out of the frame.
Taken out of high school with the 15th overall pick in the 2008 Draft, Martin is already a veteran of professional baseball. The Georgia native is playing in his fourth full season this year and is putting together his best numbers ever so far. After posting ERAs of 6.35 and 5.95 in 2010 and 2011 respectively, Martin owns a 2.81 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 41 2/3 frames this season.
One of the reason's for Martin's struggles during the past two years was his propensity for walks -- he issued 147 free passes in 208 2/3 innings during that time.
"It goes back to the walks," Martin said. "Just being able to throw strikes with all my pitches, getting deeper into games, getting earlier contact [are some of the differences this year]. I'm not trying to do too much. I'm not trying to strike out every single batter that comes to the plate. When I get in my count, I try to. But early in the count, I just try to get ahead."
Martin had more trouble with walks at the beginning of the season, issuing 15 in his first 14 2/3 frames, but has since corrected the problem. In his last 27 innings, he has allowed only seven bases on balls.
"Our pitching coach Chuck Crim [has been working with me] on keeping the same throwing mechanics every pitch," Martin said. "I've really been concentrating on that in games, and that's what's helping me throw more strikes."
After being used as a reliever for part of last year, Martin seems to have firmly entrenched himself in Chattanooga's rotation. He has reeled off five consecutive quality starts, winning four of them.
Still despite his recent success, Martin isn't getting ahead of himself.
"I know I've struggled the past couple years, so I have to prove myself a lot more than five or six starts," he said. "I've still got to keep working at it. It's still getting closer, but yet it's still far away.
"I haven't proven myself the past two years, so I've probably got to prove twice as much as everyone else does. That's the way I look at it. I've got to keep busting my butt every day and just keep going out every day trying to pitch deep and give us a chance to win."