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Saturday, May 24, 2014
Two prospects making most of opportunity

By Richard Durrett

DETROIT -- If this injury-riddled season becomes an audition of sorts for jobs in 2015 and beyond, Nick Martinez and Rougned Odor are well past the phone-interview stage. They'll be getting some second and third in-person discussions with the big bosses if they keep showing some of what they displayed in the Texas Rangers' 12-2 win over the Detroit Tigers on Saturday.

Martinez, now a full-fledged member of a battered starting rotation at age 23, held one of the best lineups in baseball to one run on eight hits in six innings. And his offense, led by Odor's two triples and five RBIs, provided plenty of support.

Nick Martinez
With a solid performance against a strong Tigers lineup, Rangers starter Nick Martinez picked up his first big league win Saturday.
Rangers manager Ron Washington and general manager Jon Daniels have talked a lot about opportunity the past few days, following news of Prince Fielder's scheduled season-ending surgery.

The numerous injuries have thrust some young players into roles a little earlier than expected. How they handle it could determine their job status for next season, as well as how this team does for the rest of 2014.

In Martinez and Odor, the Rangers have two players with no shortage of confidence. When that belief is validated with solid performances in the big leagues, it only makes them more evident they belong.

That's not a minor thing for two players who haven't spent much time in the upper part of the minors. Martinez and Odor have no Triple-A experience between them. Odor had just 263 at-bats in Double-A Frisco from playing the end of last season and the beginning of this one there. Martinez had made six starts in Frisco before getting the call to join the rotation.

Neither looks wide-eyed and scared, however. Martinez, the more under-the-radar prospect of the two, was on the mound against some of the best hitters in the league on Saturday and didn't appear intimidated. He attacked. He was aggressive. He didn't panic when it appeared things could get away from him.

"I really like what he has to offer," Texas catcher Chris Gimenez said. "He was unafraid out there and willing to challenge, arguably, the best hitter in the big leagues multiple times. He's a bulldog and goes after guys. He's not timid. I'm looking for the right word to describe him."

How about fearless?

"Fearless -- there you go," Gimenez said. "That's perfect. He's fearless. Against a team like this, that can be a very good thing, but it can be a very bad thing. But he challenged a lot of guys and made really good pitches when he needed to."

That was especially true against the meat of the Tigers lineup in Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. The fifth inning could have turned into a rough one for Martinez, if he allowed things to unravel. The Rangers had taken a 5-1 lead and were in control. But with two on and two outs, Martinez faced Hunter with Cabrera waiting in the on-deck circle, hoping for a chance to alter the momentum.

Martinez fell behind 3-0.

"I was thinking, 'Just don't walk him,'" Martinez said.

So was Gimenez, who reminded Martinez that Hunter won't hesitate to swing at 3-0. Martinez threw a fastball on the corner, then threw one again, getting Hunter to ground out to end the threat.

It was the second straight solid start for Martinez against a quality lineup. He held the now-red-hot Toronto Blue Jays to one run on four hits in five innings in his last start, a 6-2 Rangers win. The difference on Saturday: He lasted six innings and got his first big league win, which earned him a beer shower from his teammates in the visiting clubhouse.

Rougned Odor

Rougned Odor become the first No. 9 hitter with at least two triples and five RBIs in a game in MLB history (since RBI became official in 1920), according to data from ESPN Stats & Information.

Odor wasn't quite as soaked after Saturday's game, but the second baseman had a lot to do with Martinez's win. His speed was evident as he legged out two triples. He also demonstrated a penchant for delivering in the clutch, with five RBIs with runners in scoring position. And he showed off his glove and smarts.

Washington was impressed that Odor held the ball in the ninth instead of trying to turn a double play.

"He knew he didn't have a grip and he ate it," Washington said. "A lot of young guys wouldn't. He's becoming more aware."

Odor has caught the eyes of scouts since he signed with the Rangers at age 17. And when the Rangers' front office was on the phone with opposing general managers at the trade deadline and this past offseason, Odor came up in nearly every conversation. It's because he has so many raw skills and a makeup that coaches love. Those who played with Odor in the minors, including Martinez, saw that talent immediately.

"Roogie is the type of player that from day one I knew he'd be a big leaguer, and he's proving that," Martinez said. "He's got so much [savvy] out there. He plays aggressive. He's a little guy, but he plays like he's 7-foot-2. You need that to play up here."

The comment says just as much about Martinez as it does Odor, doesn't it? Martinez, a 23-year-old who has made all of four starts in the big leagues, says that as if he's been scouting for decades. And he's right, of course.

Odor and Martinez lifted the Rangers to a May victory on Saturday. They lifted their stock in the process.