Plenty of games remain on the docket before they break camp, but Martin seems to be doing everything right. The slick fielding. The speed and hustle on the basepaths. The hits that keep coming following his breakout offensive year at the Double-A level that didn’t motivate the Athletics to protect him in the Rule 5 draft.
Given another start at shortstop today, Martin responded with a leadoff triple in the third inning off veteran right-hander Charlie Morton and an infield hit in the fifth. He was stranded after the three-bagger, but scored in the fifth on Cedric Mullins’ home run.
Martin struck out in the seventh and is 9-for-20 this spring, making for a pleasant ride back Sarasota after a 9-6 win over the Rays.
“I’m just going out and playing ball, doing what I can control,” he said. “At this point it’s their decision, so all I can do is go out and play baseball.
“I’ve been to two big leagues camps with Oakland and at the end of the day it’s the same game. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at. Obviously these guys are a little more polished, but you’re playing the same exact game. Just a different level.”
Martin, who must stay with the Orioles for the entire season or pass through waivers and be offered back to Oakland, didn’t get many chances at the plate in previous camps. He’s making up for it.
“Just trying to have consistent at-bats,” he said, “and just the work you put in in the offseason and all the at-bats you get last year and the previous years, you kind of take all that information in and just try to go out and put together good at-bats.”
The defense always seems to shine, no matter where Martin is assigned, and it isn’t just the tough plays. He keeps making all of the routine ones, which also gets him noticed.
“I made it a focus a couple years back that I want to be a staple on defense and be solid on defense and take pride in making the routine play and that just comes with repetition,” he said.
“My opinion on defense is the only way you get better is just doing it over and over and over. It’s not just going to pop up and you’re going to be a good defender. You have to work at it, you have to take those fungos and take balls live off the bat and get different reads, different positions, and that’s the only way you’re going to get better.”
Yusniel Diaz was 0-for-3 with a strikeout before batting in the eighth with the bases loaded and no outs. He lined a three-run double into the left field corner off Tyler Cloyd, who inherited Emilio Pagán’s mess, and the Orioles led 6-5.
Diaz is 10-for-26 with three doubles, a home run and six RBIs.
“He’s going to give you a good AB, he’s going to give you some aggressive swings and he’s looking to do damage at the plate,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “I’ve been impressed with his plate discipline and his strike zone discipline. He rarely chases outside the zone. When he gets a pitch to hit, he takes a really aggressive swing at it. And he’s so strong.
“It looks like he just loves being in those RBI situations. He just loves to play.”
John Means allowed one hit, a soft single, in three scoreless innings. The two walks were troublesome, but he struck out five batters.
“I thought John Means threw the ball really well,” Hyde said. “Nice mix of pitches. I thought he was unpredictable. I liked his off-speed stuff. He kept hitters off-balance. He did a great job for three innings.”
Luis Ortiz arrived in Sarasota about 25 pounds lighter but his ERA is up to 14.40 in five innings. He allowed two more runs in the fifth after loading the bases with no outs and has surrendered eight runs and 10 hits in three appearances.
“Really impressed the way he showed up in camp,” Hyde said. “I know he’s working his tail off. I think the results aren’t quite what he was hoping for, but I know he’s working the right way. Hopefully he can have some positive outings here for his mindset. But I think he’s fallen in some bad luck and gotten some pitches up in tough times that just hurt him.”
Left-hander Tanner Scott retired the side in order again, as he did in his last outing, and has strung together three straight scoreless appearances since allowing four runs and four hits in one-third of an inning in his debut.
Paul Fry, his velocity down today, stranded two runners in the seventh and hasn’t allowed a run in four one-inning appearances.
Anthony Santander showed off his power in the fifth with a leadoff home run off Yonny Chirinos, an 0-2 fastball almost taking down one of the clubhouses beyond right field. He was batting from the left side and flexed some serious muscle.
“I think that’s something he’s been working on is staying behind the ball and driving the baseball and we’ve seen him do it a couple times to the opposite field,” Hyde said. “Some really nice doubles the other way, swing’s really flat. He pulled his hands in so nicely there and got the ball airborne pull-side. He’s taking good at-bats now for the last few weeks. It’s all positive.”
Renato Núñez started at third base and grounded into a double play and struck out twice. Rio Ruiz started at first, though he’s competing for the starting job at third, and had a double and single in three at-bats.