After four years pitching in Japan, right-hander Nick Martinez is ready to make his return to the major leagues on Monday night when his San Diego Padres visit the San Francisco Giants.

The Padres are off to a strong start, winning three of four games against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Padres held Arizona to an average of 2.75 runs during the series.

Now it’s up to Martinez, 31, who went 17-30 with a 4.77 ERA in his first four years in the majors, all of them with the Texas Rangers.

The Padres signed him to a four-year, $26 million contract on the strength of his 1.62 ERA in Japan in 2021.

Martinez has only faced the Giants once, going 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in 6 1/3 innings.

“Nick has always been a really good athlete and a strike-thrower,” said A.J. Preller, San Diego’s president of baseball operations. “But his stuff got better in Japan — his fastball velocity and the quality of. his breaking pitches.”

Martinez was optioned to the minors 13 times in four years with the Rangers before being non-tendered in December 2017. He turned his career around in Japan by focusing on analytics and increasing his spin rate. His fastball, for example, went up on average from 90 to 94 mph.

The Giants, who took two of three games from the Miami Marlins in their season-opening series, will counter Martinez with lefty Alex Wood, who went 10-4 with a 3.83 ERA in 26 starts last season.

That was his first season with the Giants, but Wood has had success in 16 career appearances against the Padres, going 4-2 with a 2.85 ERA.

San Francisco’s offense features rookies such as catcher Joey Bart, 25, and left fielder Heliot Ramos, 22.

Bart, San Francisco’s first-round pick in 2018, is off to a solid start with one homer and a 1.229 OPS in five at-bats.

Ramos, San Francisco’s first-round pick in 2017, made his major league debut on Sunday, going 2-for-3 with one run scored in a 3-2 win over the Marlins.

“Best moment in my life,” Ramos said of his initial hit, which came on his first swing in the major leagues. “After the first hit, I just relaxed.”

Giants manager Gabe Kapler said he was impressed by Ramos.

“A hit in your first at-bat — I don’t think you can draw it up any better,” Kapler said. “It creates confidence and swagger. He’s been driving to this moment his entire life.”

Giants hitters to watch against the right-handed Martinez are lefty-swingers Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Mike Yastrzemski. Crawford, who won his fourth Gold Glove at shortstop last year, slugged 24 homers with a team-high 90 RBIs in 2021.

Belt (29 homers) and Yastrzemski (25) figure to be challenges for Martinez also.

San Diego’s offense features superstar third baseman Manny Machado, who is off to a slow start — a .250 batting average and just two RBIs (no homers) in 16 at-bats.

San Diego’s other superstar is shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., who is out after wrist surgery.

–Field Level Media