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Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Updated: August 15, 7:45 PM ET
Leonys Martin fulfilling promise

By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com

Gary Pettis had already watched the video and devised a plan to correct center fielder Leonys Martin's issue.

When Martin tapped the Texas Rangers first-base coach on the shoulder Wednesday so they could discuss why Martin had been thrown out three consecutive times trying to steal second, Pettis sent him scurrying to watch video.

Leonys Martin
Leonys Martin is still getting comfortable in the big leagues, but he's provided a spark at the top of the Rangers lineup.

"Before, I used to have to go get him," Pettis said. "Now, he knows there's a problem and he wants to correct it.

"A lot of times he's just out there playing the game he loves and having fun. He's not thinking about situations."

And it shows whenever Martin is thrown out at second base, bunts for a hit when he should be trying to drive in a run, or throws to the wrong base.

For now, the Rangers are more than willing to live with Martin's on-the-job training.

Why not? The dude's potential is immense.

We're talking about a 25-year-old Cuban who played just 128 minor league. But that's the deal in the big leagues today. Younger, cheaper players are being called on quicker than ever to replace high-paid stars such as Josh Hamilton, who signed a five-year deal worth $25 million a year with the Los Angeles Angels.

Martin signed a five-year, $15 million deal. The Rangers needed a center fielder, and he slowly took the job from Craig Gentry.

Now, Martin doesn't always know what he doesn't know, which can lead to critical mistakes on the field. But he's conscientious about improving, and say what you want but he has been one of the catalysts for the Rangers' resurgence.

No way the Rangers win 14 of 16 games, catapulting them from six games behind the Oakland Athletics to two games ahead in the AL West in just a couple of weeks without Martin.

He's the epitome of the two-way player GM Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington are forever trying to add to their club.

"There's a lot to like about the guy," Daniels said. "He can impact the game both ways -- at the plate and in the field. He has one of the best arms in baseball, and he's only going to get better defensively.

"He hit .350 [actually .349] in Triple-A, so we're not surprised at his offense. The one thing he hasn't shown consistently is his power. He's not some slap hitter. He can drive the ball."

Martin is a winning piece because he can affect a game so many different ways.

In Wednesday's 5-4 win over Milwaukee, he twice threw out runners attempting to go from first to third on singles to center field. Martin leads the AL with 10 outfield assists and has thrown out five runners in the past seven games.

He hit so well as the ninth-place hitter in the batting order that Washington gave him a shot in the leadoff spot, moving Ian Kinsler to third when the Rangers were going through a collective offensive funk in July.

All Martin has done is hit .292 with a homer, 10 RBIs and seven stolen bases from the leadoff spot.

And that homer he hit? It was a 10th-inning walk-off blast to the opposite field that pushed the Rangers past the Los Angeles Angels, 14-11.

Martin can also impact a game with his speed.

He leads the AL with 10 bunt hits and is tied for seventh with 19 infield hits. He has also stolen 27 bases, tying him for sixth in the AL, in 35 attempts. This from a guy who hadn't stolen more than 19 in either of his two minor league seasons.

Imagine what a weapon on the bases he'll be once he gets a book on all the pitchers in the AL. Wait until his instincts get better and he can take a bigger lead.

"The reason he's been thrown out three times in a row is that he hasn't gotten the kind of jump he wants," Pettis said. "When that happens, it's OK to go back to first. Sometimes he doesn't realize that's happened until it's too late."

What encourages Washington and Daniels is that Martin will be so much better as his confidence grows and he plays more.

He'll become a better fielder when he stops taking so many circuitous routes to balls. He'll hit for more power when he sees more pitches, putting himself in better hitting counts.

All it takes is time.