MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Martin impresses Nats with dominant debut

Martin impresses Nats with dominant debut

BOSTON -- The Nationals may have found their setup man in Rafael Martin. The right-hander made his Major League debut at Fenway Park in Wednesday's 10-5 victory over the Red Sox and dominated, pitching two shutout innings and striking out five batters.

"Unbelievable. Everything I expected. I had a lot of adrenaline," said Martin, who was once a construction worker and started his professional baseball career in the Mexican League.

Martin acknowledged that he was nervous when he entered the game in the bottom of the seventh inning. But Yunel Escobar helped calm down the 30-year-old rookie by telling him that the Red Sox hitters would have trouble picking up the ball because of the shadows around home plate. Martin threw nothing but fastballs.

"So I kept pounding the zone and it worked out," Martin said. "I don't have enough words to -- it's a great feeling."

After the game, left-hander Gio Gonzalez referred to Martin as the "Mexican Assassin." How did Martin feel about the new nickname?

"[Gio] just brought that up right now. I'm the Mexican Assassin," Martin proudly said.

The slider is Martin's main pitch, but his fastball had a lot of life to it in his debut.

"The ball was cutting good. I kept pounding the zone with fastballs," Martin said.

The bullpen had been struggling before Wednesday, but the Nationals may have found someone who can get outs consistently.

"Yeah, he just came in there and filled the strike zone up," manager Matt Williams said. "We saw that all spring from him, and that's important for our bullpen that we have a guy that can do that. It's been a little rough the last few days with walking guys, hitting guys, that type of stuff. And today he just filled it up. It was great."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.