They say that making it to the major leagues has a lot to do with talent but just as much to do with luck. That same sentence applies to both Enny Romero and J.D. Martin, but in entirely different lights.
Enny Romero was never supposed to be here. He made a start for the Triple-A Durham Bulls after his strong season with Double-A Montgomery, but by all accounts he wasn’t ready for the big leagues. Yet here he is set to make his major league debut. How did it happen? An 18-inning game depleted the Rays’ pitching staff and left them wihtout a starter for Sunday. But why specifically Romero? Two key reasons: he was already on the 40-man roster, and the Rays believe in him. Romero has work to do moving forward as a pitcher. His curveball has its moments but isn’t a pitch he can rely on consistently, and his changeup is a pitch he is still attempting to harness. But making his major league debut almost out of nowhere puts Romero in the best position he will ever be in to succeed. The reason is simple: he’s a talented pitcher that almost no one in the Orioles organization has seen. Romero made one Triple-A start, and the Orioles were fortunate enough to have it come against their Triple-A Norfolk affiliate. But that’s it. The Orioles’ Double-A affiliate is in the Eastern League while the Rays’ is in the Southern League, so there is no one except for the members of the Norfolk Tides for that one game who has seen Romero in the past year. The Orioles will be scrambling for scouting reports, but bottom line, they will be facing a fireballing left-hander they know almost nothing about, evening the playing field for a pitcher in Romero who has the stuff to be an ace but isn’t quite there yet.
Just as exciting as what Romero could give the Rays is what this outing could do for Romero next season. We compared Romero’s Triple-A outing to the two Durham outings that Chris Archer had in 2011, and here Romero is trying to emulate Archer again, using a spot-start in the major leagues to catapult his career forward. Friday night’s game sped up Enny Romero’s timeline significantly. But no matter what happens, the Rays have every reason to believe that this will end up being a positive experience for Romero’s future.
J.D. Martin was never supposed to be here. He had an unbelievable season for the Durham Bulls, going 16-4 with a 2.75 ERA. But despite his outstanding performance, Martin was simply in the wrong organization. Martin was a 30 year old with a mid-80’s fastball in an organization with the best young pitching depth in baseballl. How was there any chance that he could crack their major league roster? The odds were so slim as to be almost impossible. But however long the odds were, there is always a chance–and somehow, it happened. The Rays played an 18-inning game, using an MLB-record tying 11 pitchers in the process. But that wasn’t all. Frank De Los Santos was traded to the Chicago White Sox for a player to be named as the Rays hoped Jesse Crain would be ready to come off the 60-day DL. When he wasn’t, though, they were scrambling for another pitcher, and Martin turned out to be it. Is there a poetic justice in baseball, an unassailable truth that no matter who you are, if you play well enough you will make it to the major leagues? No, there is not. For every J.D. Martin, there are 1000 deserving players who didn’t make it. And what of Martin? If Crain gets healthy, Martin will be designated for assignment as suddenly as he arrived! But let’s just enjoy the moment, enjoy the movie plot that’s unfolding in front of us. J.D. Martin has somehow made it back to the major leagues.