Rangers send Martinez down -- for now

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Nick Martinez did everything he could Saturday night to prove his major league worthiness except toss a perfect game.

In the end, his demotion back down to the minors was simply a part of the plan, pure semantics due to Yu Darvish being activated off the 15-day disabled list to pitch Sunday.

"We already had it planned out," Ron Washington said when asked whether the Rangers brass had considered optioning another player to the minors. "But we know who Nick Martinez is."

In Washington's words, the converted infielder is a player with "pitchability," someone who "doesn't get rattled," a pitcher who "has poise" and "knows how to handle his emotions in front of a big crowd" like the 30,364 in attendance at Tropicana Field on Saturday.

The 23-year-old Martinez demonstrated his full array of pitches -- fastball, two different breaking balls, a changeup, and a cutter -- against a much-improved Tampa Bay Rays' offense, a lineup that battered Joe Saunders on Friday. While he surrendered two home runs, he allowed just two other hits throughout his six-inning stint -- coincidentally, the only quality start for the Rangers pitching staff over five games.

This skill set tells Washington that Martinez will most likely be back with the big league club sooner rather than later, even if the organization has him slotted to start for Frisco on Sunday.

"He's going to be a Texas Ranger for a long time," Washington said. "Don't read too much into anything about him being sent back down. It's just a matter of getting him back here and keeping him here."

Martinez was admittedly disappointed about his cup-of-coffee stay, but he knows he left a clear impression of what he brings to the table.

"I could only control what I could control," Martinez said. "It was a great learning experience. In a perfect world, of course I would have liked to have stayed, but I understand the decision."

With the Rangers treading water right now with their starting rotation in tatters, the performance by Martinez was exactly what the team needed, considering no starter had pitched more than 5 2/3 innings until Saturday. Even though the Rangers suffered a defeat, the quality start by Martinez, followed by the first appearance by Darvish, could build momentum heading into Boston.

"When you have someone go out there and give you a start like that, especially with Yu following it, you can't ask for anything better than that," Washington said.

After the Texas ace pitches on Sunday, three youthful pitchers take the mound in a three-game series against the Red Sox -- Tanner Scheppers, Martin Perez and Robbie Ross, Jr.

"I hope this is the stage that they welcome," Washington said. "We have a group of guys going up there in Boston and we don't know how they'll react to that atmosphere. It's good that we have this to piggyback off of. We just hope they keep us in the ballgame and hope we can get some hits and runs for them."

Yu Darvish: With two strikeouts in the first inning of Sunday's contest against the Rays, Darvish reached 500 strikeouts in 401 2/3 innings for his major league career. In doing so, Darvish set the record for the quickest major leaguer to reach that plateau. Kerry Wood was the previous fastest at 404 innings.

Injury updates: Joe Saunders, who has a bruise on his left heel after being hit there during Friday's start, will not throw in his scheduled bullpen session on Monday. Washington said the team is "still trying to make a determination" on whether the lefthander will make his scheduled start next Friday. Washington insinuated that the team will wait until after the rehab start by Colby Lewis on Sunday before making a decision.

Wins, losses, stats: The 2-3 start is the first time the Rangers have had this record since 2010. The Rangers' starters have produced a 6.66 ERA in the first five games, the third highest in the majors behind the Baltimore Orioles (7.36) and Arizona Diamondbacks (6.91).