GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ethan Martin, the Dodgers’ 2008 first-round pick who will make his pro debut in a few weeks, isn’t even trying to sugarcoat it.
“I’ve got a long way to go,” Martin said Sunday at the Dodgers’ plush new spread at Camelback Ranch. “I feel that I’ve progressed since I’ve been here but I have a long way to go.”
That’s not to say he is truly green.
His right knee fully healed, Martin is spending his first spring training not only readying for a likely assignment to low Class A Great Lakes but also keeping an eye on pitchers elsewhere in camp, particularly the Double-A staff.
And asking questions.
And taking mental notes.
“When they’re throwing bullpens and I’ve got nothing to do, I’ll go over and watch them,” said Martin, who turns 20 on June 6. “It’s small things that you see people doing. If they have good command of the fastball, it’s good to up and ask them about it.”
Ask Dodgers coaches about Martin, and there is a collective sense of excitement. What was supposed to be an initial cameo last summer after Martin signed for $1.73 million instead never came about. He tore the meniscus in his right knee when he slipped covering first base during a fielding drill in the Dodgers’ postdraft minicamp.
“Ethan’s got major league stuff,” Great Lakes pitching coach Danny Darwin said. “He’s got a decent changeup and a plus fastball. He’s just got to learn to keep it in the bottom of the zone.”
Martin hopes to work on all of his pitches in what amounts to a learning season. Back home in Toccoa, Ga., he was the star athlete as the high school quarterback as well as a third baseman and pitcher, winning BA’s 2008 High School Player of the Year Award.
Now he can concentrate full-time on pitching.
“I’m going to try to get into my counts and not hitter’s counts and try to keep my pitch counts low,” Martin said. “I finished a couple of games in high school but I got in high pitch count games.
“I’m also just trying to the concept of pitching and studying hitters. I think I’ve progressed a lot in the three months I’ve been here. I’m learning the game, from a pitching standpoint.”
The broken leg that Dodgers shortstop Ivan DeJesus suffered early in camp remains a sore subject, but hitting coordinator Gene Clines is optimistic that DeJesus will not miss all of the summer.
“That was a big blow, especially with how far he has come. He was on the fast track,” Clines said. “But they’re taking probably he comes back maybe in the middle of the season.”
Jon Michael Redding, who bypassed Louisiana State and signed for $178,000 as a fifth-round pick last June, dominated in a couple of innings of work on Sunday against low Class A Fort Wayne (Padres).
Redding buzzed his fastball in on both righthanders and lefthanders, working two quick frames. He struck out 36 and issued 11 walks in 31 innings in his pro debut at short-season Ogden last summer, that coming after an impressive run at Florida CC.
“He’s got a good fastball and listens well. A lot of poise on the mound,” Darwin said. “You don’t see a kid come of out college a lot with a good changeup. But he’s got confidence in it. He’s pretty complete pitching-wise.”