Rangers call up OF Leonys Martin

Updated: August 31, 2011, 2:45 AM ET
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers called up outfielder Leonys Martin on Tuesday to replace Nelson Cruz, who was put on the disabled list with a Grade I strained left hamstring and is expected to miss about three weeks.

Reliever Darren O'Day has been placed on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. The Rangers also purchased the contract of pitcher Mark Hamburger, releasing right-handed pitcher Ryan Tucker to make room on the 40-man roster.

Martin, 23, has hit .263 with no homers and 17 RBIs in 40 games (175 at-bats) for Triple-A Round Rock. He has a combined .295 batting average and 19 stolen bases in the minors this season with Arizona, Double-A Frisco and Round Rock.

"Of course, this is a great opportunity that the team has given me, but I feel sad about what happened with Nelson," Martin said through a translator before Tuesday's game against Tampa Bay. "I hope I can get a chance, the opportunity to play with the team. ... This is very quick for me, but I'm ready to work."

Martin, who had a .348 batting average during his 29-game stint at Frisco, signed a five-year deal worth $15.5 million with a $5 million signing bonus in May. He has great speed and is someone the club expects to compete for a starting outfield job in 2012.

"We feel Leonys has the ability to fill a role, but let's see how it plays out," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Monday. "He's talented, though not a finished product, and the time up here can only help."

Martin has hit .522 (11-for-21) with runners in scoring position and two outs for Round Rock, producing 12 RBIs. He's a left-handed hitter, meaning the club has four left-handed hitting outfielders in Martin, David Murphy, Josh Hamilton and Endy Chavez. The only right-handed hitter is Craig Gentry.

"We're a little heavy on the left side in the outfield but those are our best guys at this point, so that's who we're going with," Daniels said.

Martin defected after playing for Cuba's national team in Japan at the FISU World University Championships in July and August, 2010. He hit .450 (9-for-20) with two doubles, 14 runs and eight walks in that tournament, and had been a part-time player for Cuba in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

In 82 games last season for Villa Clara in the Cuban League, Martin hit .326 with 23 doubles, 10 home runs and 48 RBIs. He hit .314 over the past five seasons.

Martin spent two days in late July with the big league club, working with coach Gary Pettis on baserunning and outfield play.

"There's some things he still has to work on. This gives Gary a chance now to stay busy," manager Ron Washington said. "He's a kid that's interested in learning. ... We'll put him in an environment here where he can go out there and not worry about failing, just go play baseball."

Washington said he could use Martin as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement, and will look for the right opportunities to get him some at-bats.

Hamburger's journey from an open tryout in the Metrodome in 2007 to a rising star in the Rangers' minor league system has brought him all the way to the major leagues.

Hamburger, 24, was acquired in a trade with Minnesota for reliever Eddie Guardado on Aug. 25, 2008, just a little more than three years ago. Hamburger was in the bullpen at Double-A Frisco and pitched well enough -- 1.83 ERA with 22 strikeouts and five walks in 19 2/3 innings -- to warrant a move to Triple-A Round Rock.

There, he was 7-4 with a 3.88 ERA in 62 2/3 innings. That includes his last four outings as a starter. Hamburger has a 1.10 ERA with 14 strikeouts, three walks and a .158 opponent batting average as a starter (16 1/3 innings pitched). He is 7-1 with a 1.99 ERA since June 6, bouncing back from a few tough outings shortly after he was promoted.

Hamburger's appearance in a big league clubhouse comes more than four years after he and a buddy decided to show up at a Twins open tryout at the Metrodome. Hamburger had pitched well in college, but didn't play the previous season because of what he called an issue with one of his core classes and credit hours. So that may have been the reason no scouts were particularly on him.

He threw off a mound and said he was clocked at 93 mph for six straight pitches, so the Twins asked him to come back the next day and throw some simulated innings. They were impressed enough that they gave him $1,200 and a plane ticket to the Gulf Coast League. He left three days later and started his professional career.

The Rangers liked his arm and thought he had a good chance to improve and obtained him in a late-August deal with Minnesota in 2008 with the Rangers out of contention. Hamburger has improved each season.

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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