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Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Leonys Martin progressing in center

By Calvin Watkins

ARLINGTON, Texas -- While Texas Rangers starting right-hander Colby Lewis was standing in front of his locker talking about his bionic hip and a resurgence of his career, center fielder Leonys Martin was discussing his own rays of sunshine.

Wednesday night in the Rangers' 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees, Martin had no problems in center field. He didn't run into anybody. He didn't run next to a fellow outfielder camped out to make a catch.

Leonys Martin
Leonys Martin is a work in progress in center field for the Rangers, but he showed some positive signs in Wednesday's win.
"I thought he handled himself extremely well," manager Ron Washington said of Martin. "Every time he went diagonally for a ball, I think the first thing he did was peek."

As simple as that sounds -- looking where you're going when running around a baseball field -- it appeared to be a problem for Martin.

Tuesday night was kind of the last straw in a series of mishaps or near crashes involving Martin and the corner outfielders. During a routine fly ball to right, Alex Rios called for it. Martin raced over and at the last minute, Rios looked over. The ball deflected off Rios' glove and hit Martin in the side of the head.

The majority of Washington's media briefing with reporters before Wednesday's game was spent discussing Martin's issues in the outfield.

"I'm not going to bash Martin, OK," Washington said. "It's about learning and that's all I want him to do is learn. Change something between him and his outfielders out there to make sure this stops, that's all. This is not about bashing Martin."

Washington wants Martin to play smarter in center field: Pay attention to your surroundings because as the captain of the outfield, Martin sets the tone and where people line up. Martin, more than anybody else, should know how to play certain balls hit to the outfield.

He is the future of center field, and while his bat has slumped of late -- he broke out of an 0-for-19 slide on Tuesday -- his quickness to balls is something the Rangers need.

He just needs more experience and to play with confidence.

Before Wednesday's game, Martin had a chat with third base coach/outfield instructor and former big league outfielder Gary Pettis about getting his head back in the game.

Pettis was a five-time Gold Glove winner during a 14-year career, compiling a career fielding record of .986.

"Yeah, we talked about making better communication," Martin said. "You just have to anticipate a little bit before something happens. I got to learn."

Martin has played 94 games as the full-time center fielder this season. Struggles will occur and the Rangers know this.

Progress is what they're seeking.

Wednesday, on three early fly balls to the corner outfielders, Martin looked before running over. He made, at best, maybe two or three baby steps. He noticed the corner outfielders were camping under the ball, so there was no need to rush over.

We saw progress Wednesday night, but the Rangers need to see more in the next two months so they don't have to add Martin to the list of things to worry about in 2015.

"The biggest thing with Leonys is he just doesn't have enough games under his belt yet," Pettis said. "He played 70 games in the minor leagues, that's half a minor league season, and he's asked to preform at a high level in the major leagues. There's going to be growing pains and there's going to be a few more of them. If he were in the minor leagues and he was making these mistakes, the only thing that would be said is, 'We need to work on this.' By working [in the minors], it takes a certain amount of time before he becomes instinctive and now when it happens [in the big leagues], it's not work on it, you have to do it. This isn’t a work-on-it league. This is a do-it league."