Just four years after making his Dodger Stadium debut as a 16-year old in the 1984 Olympics, Ramon Martinez made his major league debut for the Dodgers. In 1988, Martinez showed glimpses of the pitcher who would be atop the Dodgers rotation for the next decade.
"When I first saw him work out, I had my doubts. He was 6-2 and 132 pounds. But he showed good mechanics and a good breaking ball and good control. We figured if we put more weight on him, it would improve his breaking ball. He was just a baby then--barely 16 years old," Dodgers scout Ralph Avila told the Los Angeles Times prior to the 1988 season. "You give him the ball now, and he thinks he can pitch in the big leagues," Avila said. "He's a good kid, a mature kid. He's got a good head over his shoulders."
How acquired: Signed by the Dodgers as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 1984, shortly after the Olympics.
Prior MLB experience: None. Martinez flourished as a 19-year old in the Florida State League in 1987, going 16-5 with a 2.17 ERA in 25 starts for Class-A Vero Beach.
1988 age: 20, making Martinez the youngest member of the team.
1988 stats: After going 13-6 with a 2.58 ERA in 24 starts combined between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Albuquerque, the Dodgers promoted Martinez on Aug. 12 to replace 43-year-old Don Sutton in the starting rotation after Sutton's release. Martinez allowed one run in seven or more innings in three of his first four starts, and on the season was 1-3 with a 3.79 ERA in nine games, including six starts, with 23 strikeouts and 22 walks in 35⅔ innings.
Martinez figuratively had big shoes to fill, not only in supplanting Sutton, the holder of many Dodgers franchise pitching records, but also as the club's most prized pitching prospect since Fernando Valenzuela. Not so coincidentally, Valenzuela was on the disabled list with a shoulder injury when Martinez was called up, making the 20-year old a much-needed part of a starting rotation held together by a thread, at the time.
"It's not fair to compare anyone to Fernando, especially the way he started," general manager Fred Claire told the Times when Martinez was promoted. "But with Fernando and Ramon, you have two players who have an inner confidence that helps in a situation like this."
Regular season game of the year: Martinez had three strong outings and a 1.73 ERA after just four starts, with his best outing coming in his fourth major league start, on Aug. 29 in Montreal. He allowed just one unearned run in seven innings, with one walk and five strikeouts, in a 2-1 win over Dennis Martinez and the Expos for his first major league victory.
NLCS & World Series performance: The 20-year old Martinez was left off the postseason roster, and did not appear in either the playoffs or World Series.
Post-1988 playing career: Martinez made 15 starts in 1989 and was a fixture in the Dodgers' rotation for a decade. He won 123 games with the Dodgers, including a career best 22-6 season with a 2.92 ERA as a 22-year old in 1990. Martinez that year made his first of two consecutive All-Star teams and finished second to Doug Drabek in Cy Young balloting. Martinez reunited with brother Pedro on the Red Sox in 1999 and 2000, and finished his playing career in 2001 with the Pirates.
Where he is now: Martinez will return in 2013 for his fourth season in the Dodgers front office, and his third year as senior advisor, Latin America.