SEATTLE -- Don't call it a platoon. Call it welcomed depth, with speed to burn.
Washington started Martin and batted him ninth Thursday night against Seattle right-handed ace Felix Hernandez in the opener of a four-game series with the Mariners at chilly Safeco Field. Because he bats left-handed, Martin traditionally would get most of the starts against right-handers.
But this is no traditional arrangement.
Washington values Gentry for his speed and defense as much as he does Martin for the same traits. So he intends to start the right-handed Gentry against one of Seattle’s right-handers scheduled to start in this series. That could be Friday against Hisashi Iwakuma -- when Yu Darvish goes for Texas in the 10th major league game started by two Japanese-born pitchers -- or it could be Sunday. The Mariners’ scheduled starter for the series finale is struggling rookie right-hander Brandon Maurer, though Seattle traded on Thursday for veteran right-handed starter Aaron Harang.
With Seattle starting left-hander Joe Saunders on Saturday, Washington is looking at getting the 29-year-old Gentry consecutive starts.
“He’s an exciting guy, man,” Washington said of the Rangers’ 10th-round draft choice in 2006 who spent all of last season with Texas for the first time in his career.
“I don’t want to look at it as a platoon. ... I’m just fortunate enough to have two guys. I have to figure out ways to get both guys in there. We’ve only played nine games. They are both going to play a lot of baseball. I just hope they don’t get mentally fried trying to act like they are upset because they are not playing.
“I am going to get them all playing time, I really am. I’m fortunate that I have two of them that can play center field and do what they do.”
What they do is run the bases well, track down balls in the gaps for outs that may fall for extra-base hits beyond other outfielders – the little things that win games.
The manager isn’t getting fixated on the 25-year-old Martin, whom Texas signed in 2011 as a free agent from Cuba, beginning the season batting .176 entering Thursday, or on Gentry sitting at .308. Martin had played in six games and Gentry five.
Washington doesn’t want Martin or Gentry focused on those numbers, either.
“A lot of people equate performing to offense. I don’t,” Washington said. “It’s [about] just playing baseball. You continue to do the little things, you become serviceable.”
He wants to give each center fielder consecutive games each time he starts, so he can get into a rhythm to produce.
“There’s no way I can equalize it. It can’t be, ‘You play one day and you play the next.’ You don’t get anything going there,” he said.
Asked if he thought one might emerge as the clear starter in center, Washington said: “It’s possible. One of them would just have to fall on his face.
“But the things that each of them can do, I don’t think either will fall on his face. Now, to them, falling on their face might be offensively. But if you don’t get it done offensively and you play some defense, you get on base and run the bases, they are capable of doing that. (If you) do the little things -- hit behind runners, bunt -- I can use you.
“Now if all of that stops, one of them won’t be playing. Other than that, I can use you.”
Grimm starts: Before the game, the Rangers officially put starter Matt Harrison on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Sunday because of an inflamed nerve in his lower back. They recalled right-hander Justin Grimm from Triple-A Round Rock to start the series opener.
Washington said the team didn’t consider moving veteran Derek Lowe out of the bullpen into Harrison’s rotation place.
“We’ve got guys pitching well down [at Triple A], so we decided to go to our depth,” the manager said.
Besides, if Texas had moved Lowe into the rotation it would have still had to call up a second pitcher to take Lowe’s place in the bullpen.
The Rangers haven’t decided how Monday’s off day between this Seattle series and three games at the Chicago Cubs will affect the rotation. If they keep everyone on five days’ rest, Saturday starter Alexi Ogando would go next Thursday at Wrigley Field, and the Rangers could then skip Grimm’s turn.
Beltre shrugs: Even though Adrian Beltre played from 2005 to '09 for the Mariners and won two Gold Gloves playing third base in Seattle he isn’t exactly sentimental each time he comes back to Safeco Field.
“Just another game,” he said before batting practice.
Beltre turned 34 last weekend. He is signed through 2016. The Rangers’ 2012 player of the year reiterated how much he has enjoyed playing for the Rangers since the start of the 2011 season.
“It’s great here [with Texas]. Really great,” he said.
An Endy Chavez sighting: The Mariners selected former Ranger Endy Chavez from Triple-A Tacoma to replace starting outfielder Michael Saunders on the roster. Saunders went on the 15-day disabled list because of a sprained his right shoulder. The 35-year-old Chavez batted .301 with 27 RBIs with the Rangers in 2011 as an outfielder and designated hitter. The veteran of seven other teams was with Kansas City in spring training before the Royals released him March 22.