SARASOTA, Fla. - Richie Martin didn’t figure to keep his average above .400 for an entire spring training. He was bound to cool off, baseball’s odds catching up to the kid.
Martin is handling his mini-slump or whatever it should be termed with the same poise and maturity that’s gotten him this far.
No hits in his last four games brings fewer worries, if that’s possible.
Don’t overthink it. Martin isn’t.
“That’s just how baseball goes,” he said yesterday morning while relaxing at his locker. “You’re not going to get a hit every at-bat. Just keep plugging day in and day out and keep getting in your work and good things will happen.”
Some of the more convenient explanations available to Martin beyond his Rule 5 status, such as the number of unfamiliar pitchers that opposing managers filter into these games, don’t interest him in the least.
“It’s definitely different, but that’s no excuse,” he said. “You’re still going to get good pitches to hit, fastballs, but you’ve just got to handle them and take care of them and I just haven’t done that the past few games.”
Martin didn’t make the trip yesterday to Fort Myers, but he could be on a bus this morning to Dunedin. He’s gone 0-for-3, 0-for-3, 0-for-3 and 0-for-4 in his past four games, all of them starts at shortstop, to lower his average to .273 with a .314 on-base percentage.
The expectation remains that Martin will break camp with the team after being the first overall selection in the Rule 5 draft from the Athletics organization and he’s the likely choice to start at shortstop. Makes total sense to evaluate his readiness for major league competition before slipping in a veteran - Alcides Escobar is one example - or perhaps giving Drew Jackson a shot.
Jackson also holds Rule 5 status and he’s been preparing for a super-utility role.
The Orioles can overlook Martin’s decline in offensive production and appreciate what he brings in the field and on the basepaths, with speed and aggression replacing the usual wait for a three-run homer.
Asked whether he’s done what’s required to convince the Orioles to keep him and maybe start him, Martin replied, “That’s not up to me, that’s not my decision.”
“I don’t like to think like that,” said Martin’s whose average climbed to .450 on March 6 after collecting two hits against the Rays. “I take every day as a new day and nothing’s given here. It’s been (tough) for me lately. That’s the way baseball goes. Just got to keep putting in good work and just go day in and day out and play hard.”
Martin is an accurate thrower, but he can bounce ideas off Jackson, his roommate and now a good friend. Rule 5 picks forming an instant bond.
“He’s been awesome,” Martin said. “That’s my boy. He’s cool. We developed a pretty good relationship. He’s a good dude.”
Jackson has been a really good player in spring training, playing three infield positions and center field and going 14-for-35 (.400) in 19 games, including yesterday’s home run.
“Drew can hit,” Martin said. “We already knew that. And just his ability to play different positions and feel comfortable is pretty impressive.”