PHILADELPHIA -- Ethan Martin stepped onto the field on Friday night and tried to keep the butterflies and adrenaline in check.
No such luck.
"I think I expected it," Martin said following the Phils' 6-4 loss to the Braves. "It's been a long time. It's been my dream my whole life."
Martin, 24, made his big league debut against the team he grew up cheering. He pumped fastballs as high as 97 mph in the first inning as the adrenaline flowed. He controlled the nervous energy enough through four innings, when he allowed only one run, before he found trouble in the fifth, when he allowed five.
Martin, who grew up in Georgia, finished his night allowing eight hits, six runs, three walks and two home runs, and striking out six in 4 1/3 innings.
"It was tough," he said. "It was a challenge, but I wanted to go out there and prove I could do it. I just didn't make the pitches late in the game, in the fifth inning. I needed to get a ground ball or minimize the damage, but I didn't get those pitches. I left them over the plate, and they capitalized. … I just tried to slow it down as much as I could. But first time up and being in front of all the fans, coming out, especially out of the dugout to warm up it's like, wow. The fact they were the team I grew up watching just kind of added on to that."
But Martin should take comfort in knowing that he will get more opportunities in the future. He also should take solace in the words of Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who said, "He was pretty darn good the first couple of innings. The second time around the lineup I think we had some better looks at him. But that young man is going to be successful, because he has four quality Major League pitches he can throw for a strike."
Said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel: "I like what I saw from him."
The final two months of the season will be about two things for the Phillies: opportunity and evaluation.
Young pitchers and hitters will have a chance to show the front office if they can play, although two months of stress-free baseball isn't always terribly reliable in terms of evaluation. Young pitchers helped the Phillies post one of the best bullpen ERAs in baseball the final two months of last season, but they have been a major disappointment this year.
One of the young hitters, Darin Ruf, tried to give Martin -- who started in place of the injured Jonathan Pettibone -- a little breathing room in the second inning, when he and Delmon Young hit back-to-back home runs against Braves right-hander Kris Medlen to make it 2-0. It was Ruf's third homer of the season. He has now reached base in 30 consecutive games dating back to last season, the longest active streak in the big leagues.
It was Young's eighth homer of the season.
The Phillies are going to give Ruf an extended look the rest of the season to find out if he is an option to play left field and occasional first base next year, maybe giving Ryan Howard a break every now and then against left-handed pitchers.
He has been productive to this point.
But one wonders what will happen when Domonic Brown returns from the concussion disabled list as early as next week. If Brown returns to left field, Ruf would have to move to first. But Michael Young is at first, and Young is not going to play much third base with Cody Asche expected to see regular playing time there the rest of the season.
The Phillies could move Brown to right field, which is his more natural position. That is where Delmon Young has played regularly since he joined the team in late April. Both Michael Young and Delmon Young are not expected back next season, so it would not be a stretch to see the Phillies clear room by moving one of them to continue to give the young guys a chance to play.
That will be decided later. On Friday, Martin got a chance to work out the butterflies.
"I take what I learn from this and go on to the next one, you know?" Martin said. "It's a tough one to swallow, especially making that many mistakes in one inning and not being able to get to that ground ball or double play I needed in that inning. But just learn from that and realize I've got to hit my spots."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.