Former Zag Martin hopes to make mark in Seattle

Former Zag Martin hopes to make mark in Seattle

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Cody Martin may have grown up in California, but he considers himself a Washington State native at heart. And starting a Cactus League game for the Mariners on Tuesday was a big moment for the 26-year-old right-hander, even if it started out with surrendering back-to-back doubles on his first two pitches.

The former Gonzaga University closer threw three innings for the Mariners in their 4-4 tie with the Angels, allowing six hits and two runs while filling in for veteran Wade Miley, who pitched in a Minor League simulated game instead of facing the division-rival Halos for a second time this spring.

"You just have to take it for what it is, another opportunity to pitch," Martin said of his spot start. "This is what I want, being a guy kind of on the fringe to make the club. So it's a big opportunity for me. It didn't go as planned, but I think I battled well and minimized [the damage]."

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Martin said his initial intent to come out throwing strikes had to be adjusted when the Angels teed off on his first few offerings, which caught a little too much of the plate.

"I started vs. the Angels last year when I was with Oakland, so I kind of understood what they'd do normally," he said. "But they came out hacking and I had to change my whole approach, mix it up a little and work the two-seam and cutter a little more."

Martin's rooting interest in the Mariners began as a kid in Dos Palos, Calif., where his best friend's dad was a Northwest native native and huge fan of Seattle sports teams. Then when his college decision game, Gonzaga University in Spokane turned out to be the only school recruiting him and he went on to a four-year career as the Zags' closer.

While he's spent his first five years in pro baseball playing for Atlanta and Oakland, he spends his offseasons in Vancouver, Wash., the hometown of his wife and her family. So when the phone rang last October with news the Mariners had claimed him off waivers, Martin saw it as the perfect opportunity.

"I was excited," Martin said. "Things didn't end well last year [with the A's], but I definitely believed I could pitch in the big leagues and wanted to keep getting opportunities to prove myself, prove my stuff. Getting picked up by the Mariners was great. Seattle is sweet. It's nice to be in Washington again."

Martin says he constantly watched the Mariners on TV while attending Gonzaga, having grown up as a displaced fan in California during the heyday of Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner and current Mariners coaches Edgar Martinez and Dan Wilson.

""My best friend's dad was from Seattle so I grew up watching the Sonics, Seahawks and Mariners," he said. "They're die-hard sports fans, so we were watching Griffey, Jay Buhner and those guys. The first Major League game I went to was in Oakland against the Mariners and we sat up in bleachers behind Buhner. I have a lot of ties to Washington."

Martin was a reliever at Gonzaga, but pitched primarily as a starter coming up with the Braves until he made his Major League debut last season in the bullpen and went 2-3 with a 5.40 ERA in 21 appearances. He got traded to the A's in July and converted back to a starting role, making two late-season starts in Oakland before being designated for assignment and was claimed off waivers by the Mariners.

He's likely headed for a starting role in Triple-A Tacoma to start the year, though the Mariners aren't ruling out the possibility of him working as a swingman given his bullpen background and some uncertainty in the relief crew.

"I can do both," Martin said. "I was starting in the Minor Leagues over the last five years and I'd say my numbers were pretty consistent (31-29, 3.24 ERA in 118 games). "I also had some really good numbers in college as a reliever and the first half of last season I thought I did really well as a sixth, seventh, eighth-inning guy.

"I'm excited to do whatever it is they need. There's a lot of opportunity here, it seems. I'm happy to do anything if it gets me to Safeco Field."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.