The pitches sizzle, snapping into the catcher’s glove to strike out yet another flailing batter. This hard thrower in the minors has all the tools needed to make it to the bigs.
He also has the right last name: Martinez.
Jesus Martinez is the younger brother of Ramon and Pedro, two of the best pitchers in the majors.
In his first full season with the Triple-A Albuquerque Dukes, the 23-year-old Jesus is pitching in his brothers’ footsteps to the mound. And like his brothers, he’s coming up through the Dodgers’ organization.
“Ramon already made it. Pedro is already there. I have to work my way up,” he said as he sat in the dugout before a recent home game against the Calgary Cannons. “It’s kind of a little bit of pressure.”
A little bit?
The 25-year-old Pedro, traded from Los Angeles to Montreal in 1993, is 14-6 and leads the National League with a 1.70 ERA and the majors with 11 complete games. He’s also third in the majors in strikeouts with 219.
Ramon, 29, has pitched for Los Angeles for nine seasons and is currently on a rehab assignment because of an injury. He went 6-3 for the Dodgers earlier this season and had one of the highest strikeouts-per-inning ratios on the team: 87 in 94-2/3 innings.
Jesus, unlike his brothers a lefty, has been playing the game since his hand was big enough to hold a ball while growing up in the Dominican Republic. He used to hang out at the Dodgers Academy there and watch his big brothers practice.
When the coaching staff at the academy showed interest in him, he decided to sign with the team in 1990.
The family had a hard time before his brothers joined the Dodgers, he said. When he was very young, his family relied on his father’s wages from a construction job to pay the bills. Then his father had an accident at work and his mother had to support the family.
“Right now they are relaxing, letting us take care of them,” Jesus said with a smile.
Jesus is 6-1 this season with a 6.78 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 23 games for the struggling Dukes, 23-32 in the Pacific Coast League going into the weekend.
Like most young pitchers Jesus still needs to improve; he hasn’t pitched since July 29 because of a sore shoulder. But he does show a lot of promise, Dukes manager Glenn Hoffman said.
“I think being 23 years old, and a left-hander with a good arm, it’s just a question of getting command of it,” Hoffman said. “I believe it might take a little work to get the coordinates, but once that clicks, everything else might come real quick.”
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