SALISBURY, Md. - If the grind of his first full pro season is weighing on Single-A Delmarva shortstop Adrian Marin, he’s hiding it well. Though back tightness has caused the 2012 third-round draft pick from playing in the Shorebirds’ past five games, the 19-year-old Marin has certainly withstood the rigors of a longer campaign that frequently saps the energy and threatens the confidence of young players.
Marin expects to be back in the lineup tonight when the Shorebirds host the Greensboro Grasshoppers at Perdue Stadium. He’s hitting .279 with two homers and 36 RBIs in 89 games with Delmarva.
“I was playing well. I would love to be out there on the field every day, but my back bothered me, so I wanted to rest it and be 100 percent for August,” he said. “Just tight, a little sore when I ran. ... I was just running and I felt something in my back, so it was smart to just take it easy.”
Learning to listen to your body rather than play through a seemingly minor injury that might turn into something more long-term is another adjustment inexperienced hands make. Coming straight out of Gulliver Prep in Miami, an area that has produced shortstops from Alex Rodriguez to Manny Machado, Marin could be forgiven for overdoing it while trying to prove himself.
But every test the Orioles have thrown his way, he’s handled with aplomb. He signed quickly and hit .287 in 47 games with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast Orioles last season, earning a promotion late in the year to Delmarva, where be batted .286 in a six-game trial. The glovework was never an issue for Marin, but the Orioles wondered if the bat would play - and if so, how soon.
This season, the right-handed hitter started out slow, with a .214 mark in April, as he struggled to adjust from the south Florida warmth to the Eastern Shore’s cool, damp spring. May was more promising - 28-for-89 (.315) with 10 RBIs. He cooled off a little in June, batting .253, but probably didn’t want to see the calendar turn from July after hitting .321.
“I wanted to hit better every month, that was my goal,” Marin said. “Fielding-wise, same thing - make less errors each month. Just improve each month.”
Those sessions with Shorebirds hitting coach Jon Mathews, the work at shortstop with infield coach Shawn Roof, the tutelage of first-year Delmarva manager Luis Pujols - all have paid off. As the season hits its dog days, Marin is turning his game up a notch instead of withering in the Salisbury humidity, which reminds him of home.
“I haven’t been that tired, really,” he said. “I’ve been adjusting well to the first full season. I feel good.”
Pujols, a catcher for nine major league seasons who managed the Detroit Tigers in 2002, is the kind of experienced hand who can have a profound effect on a young player. It’s clear that Marin has listened when Pujols has spoken about not getting into bad habits or letting a bad game at the plate or an unfortunate bounce in the infield get inside a player’s head.
“Just try to focus on the present, play hard every day,” Marin said, explaining the approach he’s taken. “It’s been going well so far. There’s going to be times you have bad games, and all that, but you can’t let it go on to the next one. Thinking about the last one, if you went 0-for-5 or 0-for-4, you just have to keep on going. If you think about the past, if you think about the bad game, you’re going to keep playing bad. It’s just focus.”
Marin spent the offseason trying to tweak his swing to make it a little shorter to produce more contact. Pujols has hit him eighth for most of the season - the idea has been to try and take some of the pressure off him to produce at the plate - and Marin has responded, even though he doesn’t always have the most accomplished hitter protecting him from the nine-hole.
“I just hit where they put me. If they put me in the eighth spot, I’ve still got to do my job,” Marin said.
He’s not sure what the future holds. The Shorebirds are 13-28 in the South Atlantic League’s second half, following a 30-37 mark in the first half in the Northern Division. The parent Orioles have shortstop J.J. Hardy signed through 2014 with Machado waiting in the wings to shift over from third base. Behind Machado, however, there seem to be fewer sure options at short - Sammy Starr at Single-A Frederick, Niuman Romero at Double-A Bowie, Yamaico Navarro at Triple-A Norfolk.
Marin doesn’t worry himself with organizational depth charts or how other shortstops in the system are doing. His focus is on himself, his game and this season at Delmarva - or wherever he winds up as the campaign winds down. Every game, he said, is an opportunity.
“I just play hard, every day,” he said. “I never have my head down because you don’t know who’s watching.”