Don’t Count Out Luis Marte For A Bullpen Spot


The recent article on David Pauley here on MCB by Garret Craig got me thinking. No, not about innings and layoffs, and how the frequency of usage affects a pitchers effectiveness. Though this is an interesting subject worth discussion, these things are often over my head, and Garret approached the subject far better than I ever could. The article got me thinking about the likelihood that David Pauley could already be penciled in for the last spot in the bullpen after Al Alburquerque‘s recent elbow troubles.

It’s typical for Jim Leyland and the Tigers to take a 12 man pitching staff north with them out of spring training. Assuming that they are going to bring 5 starters, that leaves 7 bullpen spots. Six are pretty much spoken for at this point; Daniel Schlereth, Phil Coke, Jose Valverde, Octavio Dotel, Joaquin Benoit, and Collin Balester are likely to be in the Tigers bullpen for sure. That leaves one spot. Given that Pauley has a couple years experience, pitched well in the 1st half last season, and was part of the trade with Seattle last season, he probably has the inside track.

Just don’t count out Luis Marte.

It’s easy to overlook Luis Marte at first glance, and I will be honest, he had completely fallen off my radar prior to 2011. The guy isn’t a towering presence at around 6’0 tall, but don’t let his diminutive stature fool you, his height isn’t going to slow him down. Marte, who was at one time one of the top 10 prospects in the Tigers organization, has really developed the ability to pitch. A guy who rarely hits the mid 90’s anymore, Marte now has adapted his power pitching style to a guy who now dissects hitters instead of overpowering them. That’s what happens when you go through the all of the injuries Marte has.

Starting in 2008, the path for the transformation to Marte’s game began. He had multiple injuries in 2008, both elbow and shoulder, which sidelined him for some time, even though neither injury required surgery. 2009 came around, and it was much of the same for Marte. He dealt with shoulder issues once again. In 2010, it was a knee injury in spring training, doing some fly ball shagging out in the outfield. Prior to the 2011, it was the shoulder once again, and Marte started the season late, this time in a relief role as opposed to the starter he had always been.

All Marte did was make up for lost time.

Luis took to a his new reliever role and performed it with reckless abandon this past season. Pitching like a guy who missed the game of baseball, Marte dominated AA hitters to the tune of a .158 BA against, and an ERA at a paltry 1.70. He also posted a WHIP of under 1.00 and struck out 68 batters in 53 innings, bringing his name to the attention of the Tigers brass once again. All of this despite the years and years of multiple injuries sapping miles per hour off of his fastball. Marte now comfortably sits 88-91mph with his heater, but commands it better than ever. Getting strikeouts with that kind of heater suggests growth and maturity as a pitcher.

What Marte really did is re-invent himself like few pitchers do. Instead of hanging his head about the roadblocks put in his way, he has pushed forward, and made himself a better pitcher because of it. Marte, who in my opinion, held one of the best sliders in the Tigers organization a couple years ago, has developed his curve to the point where it is considered a borderline plus pitch by scouts. At the very least it is above average. Marte’s game is now about moving his fastball in and out, up and down, and adding and subtracting mph to all of his offerings, including his curve. So far he is doing it well.

At the end of the season, Marte finally made his big league debut. And while he put 7 base runners on in just 3.2 innings, he only gave up one run. It had to be a satisfying trip for Marte even if he got completely demolished given all the injuries he had worked to get past. I can’t help but imagine his positivity had something to do with that. Marte is one of those guys you root for. His attitude is infectious, and from what I have seen, he enjoys being out there on a diamond with his teammates.

Marte’s stuff might not be what it used to be, but let’s not act like David Pauley is carrying a loaded weapon in that right arm of his either. To put it nicely, his stuff is pedestrian. At the very least, an automatic spot on the roster for Pauley isn’t something that we should assume. That last bullpen spot for the Tigers is going to be up for grabs. Heck, even the recently acquired Colin Balester might have his name penciled in, much like Ryan Perry‘s would’ve.

David Pauley’s name might be penciled in right now, but don’t be surprised if Luis Marte is bringing an eraser to spring training.