CLEARWATER, Fla. - Starter-turned-reliever Ethan Martin is back to starting.
At least for now.
"He needs to pitch. He didn't get enough reps last year," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Saturday. "I think he needs to work on all his stuff and the command of all his pitches, and I think this is the best way to do it and get his arm strength going."
Martin, the 25-year-old righthander the Phillies acquired in 2012 from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Shane Victorino, spent last year as a reliever. A strained pitching shoulder in spring training put him on the disabled list to start the season, and he made just two early-June appearances in the majors before he was optioned to triple A.
Martin recorded a 4.15 ERA in 29 appearances with Lehigh Valley, where he probably will begin this season.
His velocity decreased last year because of the injury but improved toward the end of the season. Martin flew to Venezuela to log innings as a starter in winter ball, but his lower back tightened up in his first start.
After rehabilitating in Venezuela for a month, Martin returned to the mound in late November only to feel his back lock up again in the second inning of his second start. The Phillies shut him down, and he used the months since to recover. He entered spring training healthy, and on Saturday he pitched his second bullpen session in three days.
The latest change doesn't mean Martin won't eventually move back to the bullpen, Amaro said. But at the moment, with the Phillies' featuring a strong young bullpen but lacking rotation depth at triple A, this was their course of action with the former 15th overall draft pick.
Lefthander Cliff Lee did not throw a bullpen session with the other pitchers Saturday, but he will throw Sunday. In the early going he will take two days rather than the typical one day between sessions, as the Phillies ease him into spring training after his 2014 elbow strain. . . . Chase Utley and Freddy Galvis - the team's projected middle infield - joined camp Saturday ahead of the first full-squad workout Tuesday.