Raidel Martinez of Cuba throws in the ninth inning during the World Baseball Classic quarterfinal between Australia and Cuba at Tokyo Dome on March 15, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Kenta Harada/Getty Images)
By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
Chunichi Dragons closer Raidel Martinez will not pitch for the remainder of the Nippon Professional Baseball season due to hip and buttocks discomfort, according to Drian Bernal of Pelotacubanablog.com.
Martinez was taken out of the game in the ninth inning this past Saturday, a contest the Dragons lost 1-0 to the Yomiuri Giants.
Martinez had been dominant on the mound for the Dragons this season, recording a 0.39 ERA in 46.2 innings. The Cuban-born right-hander struck out 62 and allowed just one home run all season. He accumulated 32 saves and held a 3-1 win-loss record in 48 games.
Martinez signed with the Dragons in 2017 and recorded his first NPB win one year later against the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. He had a rough season in 2018, finishing with a 6.65 ERA in seven games. Since then, he has not finished with an ERA higher than 2.88. He was selected to his first NPB All-Star team in 2022, a stellar season for Martinez. In 56 games, he recorded 39 saves and had a 0.754 WHIP.
Martinez played four seasons in Serie Nacional de Béisbol with Vegueros de Pinar del Rio and Tigres de Ciego de Ávila. He owns a 2.77 ERA and 1.346 WHIP in 44 career games. Martinez made starts in 14 of the 44 games but has never started a game in his six years with the Chunichi Dragons.
The hard-throwing closer pitched for Cuba in the 2017 and 2023 World Baseball Classic. Other notable members of the 2023 Cuba bullpen included former Chunichi Dragon Yariel Rodriguez and Fukuoka Softbank Hawks relief pitcher Livan Moinelo, who is also out for the remainder of the 2023 NPB season due to injury. Martinez struggled at the 2023 World Baseball Classic, giving up two earned runs in four innings. He recorded the only save for Cuba in a 4-3 win against Australia on March 15 to advance to the semifinals.
Candidates to take over the closer role are 23-year-old Tatsuya Shimizu and Michael Feliz. Shimizu has primarily been the Dragons’ go-to reliever out of the bullpen, appearing in 49 games. He has 25 holds and 54 strikeouts in 46.2 innings. Feliz has appeared in 228 Major League Baseball games, most recently in 2022 with the Boston Red Sox. He has appeared in 12 games this season for the Dragons and has 10 strikeouts in 9.2 innings.
The Chunichi Dragons (50-78) will play their next game on Wednesday, September 20 at 5 a.m. ET against the Tokyo Yakult Swallows (53-78). The game will take place at Vantelin Dome Nagoya, home of the Dragons. The final day of the 2023 NPB regular season is Monday, October 9. The top three teams from the Pacific and Central League will qualify for the postseason.