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Martinez Pitching With a Bit of New Pressure

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    Nick Martinez #22 of the Texas Rangers walks off the mound at the end of the fifth inning during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays on June 26, 2015 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

    Three-fifths of the Texas Rangers' projected starting rotation in 2016 has combined to pitch one inning (nine pitches) for the Rangers in 2015, and that was Derek Holland in his season debut before leaving after one inning with a shoulder strain that's had him on the disabled list since.

    Cole Hamels arrives today and is scheduled to make his Rangers debut on Saturday against the Giants as the new unquestioned ace of the 2015 staff and a co-ace of the 2016 staff once Yu Darvish returns from Tommy John surgery he had this past March.

    With Hamels, Darvish, Holland and Martin Perez projected as the Rangers' top four starters in 2016, that leaves one open spot up for grabs between guys like Nick Martinez, Nick Tepesch, Chi Chi Gonzalez and even Colby Lewis, who's set to be a free agent this winter but has expressed desire to remain in Texas.

    If Lewis was brought back, he'd be the odds-on favorite to be the No. 5 starter, and as you've seen this year he'd be one hell of a No. 5 starter on any big-league staff. But if Lewis is gone, Martinez would likely be the favorite given his growing bit of experience at the big-league level.

    With that said, Martinez is going to have to prove he's capable of pulling up the back of a rotation and snap this little funk he's been in for really much of the season, his scorching April notwithstanding. On the whole, Martinez is 5-6 this year with a 4.08 ERA — not bad for No. 5 starter numbers, but it's been a tale of ups and a lot of downs for the second-year pitcher.

    After his first five starts of the year, Martinez had an ERA of 0.84. Since then, he's gone 3-6 with a 5.47 ERA, and had a demotion to Triple-A mixed in for nearly a month.

    With the spots decreasing for the Rangers' future rotation spots, Martinez needs to start getting a leg up on the competition soon.