- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- After what Texas Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin did Tuesday night -- connecting for a career-high four hits, working the count, avoiding breaking balls -- he probably needs to chat with manager Ron Washington more often.
Prior to Tuesday night’s nearly-five-hour contest at Globe Life Park -- where the Rangers secured a 3-2, 14-inning victory over the Tampa Bay Rays -- Washington talked to Martin about his issues at the plate.
“He made me feel comfortable,” Martin said of the chat.
“He hit strikes tonight,” Washington said.
The Rangers are still waiting for Martin to morph into a rising star like some of his better-known Cuban countrymen.
This 2014 season has been a burden on many watching the 26-year-old. He’s struggled in the field, and only recently fixed some of his problems of reading fly balls without crashing into the corner outfielders. Martin had a little chat with outfield coach Gary Pettis after he let a ball smack him in the side of the head as he almost banged into right fielder Alex Rios.
After the discussion about using your eyes more to help you police the outfield, there've been few mistakes the past two weeks.
At the plate, Martin often swung at sliders in the dirt and failed to either hold off on or hit fastballs out of the zone.
Tuesday night, Martin ended a 0-for-12 spell with a second-inning single to left. In his second at-bat, he worked the count full and fouled off two pitches before reaching on a single to right. When his night was over, Martin added a run scored and a stolen base to the four singles.
“It was good for me, it felt good,” Martin said. “I feel better and I just swung at good pitches.”
Cespedes is an established power hitter, an addition the Red Sox believe will help them become contenders again in 2015.
We mention Abreu, Puig and Cespedes as players who defected from Cuba, much like Martin, with the hopes and dreams of escaping a difficult life, for stardom in the big leagues.
“I don’t worry about them,” Martin said. “I just worry about working hard and helping my team win games.”
Too many times, Martin is behind in the count, forcing him to swing at pitches, particularly breaking pitches he can’t handle.
“Just got to make an adjustment, that’s all,” Washington said. “When you’re young and inexperienced like Martin is, although he’s been here three years, and this is his fourth year, he is still inexperienced. [The] league makes adjustments; he has to make adjustments.”
Not every player from Cuba has become a star, yet the Rangers signed Martin to a five-year, $15.5 million deal in 2010, with expectations that he'd play better than this. We’re not talking about 40 home runs and 135 RBIs, but better than his current .256 average and 46 runs scored.
“Sometimes I feel strong and make good contact on my pitches,” Martin said. “The last couple of weeks I’ve felt better.”
What the Rangers need to see is progression from one game to the next. Eliminate the bad at-bats and poor reads on fly balls.
There are players who have made it to the big leagues with Martin's talent, or better, and are making an impact.
Washington said Martin is panicking at the plate and should relax and follow the game plan set forth by the coaching staff. That, in theory, should make the slumps fewer and farther between.
“He hasn’t been swinging at many strikes,” Washington said before the game. “He’s been too aggressive. You got scouts sitting up there and they see that. Once one [scout] puts it on the paper, everybody has it, and the only way it’s going to change is if Martin changes, because they’re going to keep doing the same thing.”
Tuesday night was a nice way for Martin to change the narrative about himself. Now he has to keep it up.