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Martin shows command issues again in Phils' loss
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ATLANTA -- It’s all about the learning experience now, all about seeing who can make an impression for 2014 because, as Cole Hamels said Monday night, “there’s a lot of baseball in the future for a lot of guys and there’s not a lot of baseball for some guys.”

Ethan Martin is one of those guys who has a future with the Phillies. It’s uncertain whether that future will be as a starter or a reliever. For now, he is a starter. It is the best way to get him the innings he needs to work on his command and secondary pitches.

Martin, 24, was on the short end of a 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay). In just his third big-league start, the right-hander once again showed that power arm that has some baseball people thinking he can be a late-game reliever. But Martin also struggled with a longtime bugaboo -- command. He threw 96 pitches and was only able to get through five innings.

“He battled them,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “He was aggressive. But he had some command problems, getting balls up and working deeps counts.”

It’s no secret that the Phillies need to reshape their bullpen in the offseason. They will spend the final six weeks of the season seeing if Jake Diekman and Justin De Fratus can be contributors -- both had successful outings on Tuesday -- and they will have their ears open this winter to see if there are any takers for disgruntled closer Jonathan Papelbon. Whatever happens, there will be jobs to win in the Phillies’ bullpen.

Martin could get a look -- as a starter or a reliever.

“What I see now is a max-effort guy,” Manuel said. “You think bullpen piece because he has a strong arm and a good, tight breaking ball. But he’s young. There’s still time to see if he can start.”

Martin will have to improve his command to make it in the bullpen. Heck, he’ll have to improve it to make it in any role. His goal is to do that and …

“Just try to leave a good impression for however long I’m here,” he said after Tuesday night’s game.

Martin grew up about an hour from Atlanta. He left 18 tickets for the game. He had attended many games at Turner Field as a fan, but this was the first time he’d pitched there.

“I thought I’d have a lot more butterflies, but it was fine,” he said.

Other than taking the loss, he said the experience of pitching at home was fun.

Martin’s fastball hit 96 mph early in the game. He lost a notch on it in later innings, but still managed to strike out six. He tried to throw a fastball past Chris Johnson with a man on base in the third inning but didn’t get it inside enough and Johnson, the NL’s leading hitter at .337, smoked it into the left-field seats to give the Braves a 3-0 lead.

The Phillies hit some balls hard, but managed just one run when Domonic Brown singled home Chase Utley in the sixth. Utley, who keeps playing hard as the losses mount, had half of the Phillies’ six hits.

Atlanta starter Kris Medlen looked like Greg Maddux as he threw sinkers and changeups en route to seven innings of one-run ball.

Medlen even had an RBI double in the second inning, though Darin Ruf misplayed it in right field.

Ruf has played just seven games in right field. Like Martin, he is trying to show he can help in 2014.

“It’s kind of tough because he hasn’t played there,” Manuel said. “You kind of have to give him a pass until he gets experience out there.”

The Phillies are 5-18 since the All-Star break. A month ago, they trailed the Braves by 6½ games at the All-Star break. The deficit is now 19½.

And that’s why it’s all about getting the young guys experience and seeing who might be able to help turn this thing around in 2014.