As major-league debuts go, Ethan Martin’s will likely be among the most nerve-wracking.
The Phillies announced Thursday that the 24-year-old righthander will make that debut Friday night at Citizens Bank Park when the Phillies open a three-game series against the streaking first-place Atlanta Braves.
The fact that the Braves come in as one of the hottest teams in baseball and with a huge lead in the National League East will make Martin’s debut tough enough. Adding to the degree of difficulty will be the fact that the Braves are the team that Martin grew up watching and rooting for as a young boy in Georgia.
“I really didn’t have a clue (I was pitching against the Braves),” Martin said. “I called my parents (Debbie and Terry) and told them I got called up. My mom actually called about thirty minutes later and said, ‘Do you know who you’re pitching against? She said, ‘It’s the Braves.’ I was like, ‘Oh, wow, that’s sweet.’
“Where I grew up, the stadium was only about an hour and fifteen minutes away, so I went to a lot of Braves games when I was little. We probably went to about four or five games a year. I liked John Smoltz, but my favorite player growing up was David Justice.”
Martin said his interest in the Braves started to wane after the Dodgers made him their first-round draft choice (15th overall) in the 2008 draft.
“It’s always back there, but you kind of lost that and now you just want to beat them,” he said.
Martin will get that opportunity Friday because the Phillies needed an extra starter in order to move back Cliff Lee’s scheduled start a few days. Lee missed his start Saturday in Detroit because of a stiff neck, but he threw a bullpen Thursday and is likely to return for Sunday night’s game against the Braves.
Acquired as part of the Shane Victorino trade with Los Angeles last July 31, Martin got the call because he has been triple-A Lehigh Valley’s best pitcher since the end of April.
Martin was 1-2 with a 7.54 ERA through his first five starts of the season, but he believes things started to turn in his final start of April at Louisville.
“There was one start, the first inning I threw like 40-something pitches and Brundy (IronPigs manager Dave Brundage) wanted to take me out,” Martin said. “I was like, ‘No, let me go,’ and after that I pitched like five innings. From that game on, I got some confidence and felt myself getting a good release point and I just built off that.”
In 16 starts since April, Martin was 10-3 with a 3.26 ERA, holding opponents to a .226 batting average. He allowed just one earned run on 10 hits over 18 1/3 innings during his last three starts with the IronPigs.
Brown close to returning. Right fielder Domonic Brown, out since suffering a concussion in a July 23 game at St. Louis, said Thursday he is symptom free and expects to return to the Phillies’ lineup soon.
“I feel great,” he said. “I haven’t had any symptoms for four days or so. I took like (60) swings (Thursday) and I’m going to take BP (Friday). I have to work back into baseball activity and I’m pretty sure that will be next week. Possibly Monday. I’m pretty sure I’m going to go on a rehab assignment for a day or two and then back to playing.”