Rule 5 pick Richie Martin makes a strong first impression

SARASOTA, Fla. - He’s got new teammates here in Birdland since coming over from Oakland as a Rule 5 pick in December. But the process of blending in has been smooth, quick and easy for infielder Richie Martin.

“I feel comfortable,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s baseball. Doesn’t matter really what level you are at, it’s the same game. It’s going good for me. Getting in the swing of things. Everyone around here is real comforting and helpful and showing us young guys the ropes. So, everything is going great.”

The 24-year-old Martin has gotten off to a good start. He’s batting .462 (6-for-13) with two doubles and four RBIs, and he’s shown the defensive skills the club said he had. His diving stop in the hole last Saturday versus the Red Sox was the top defensive gem of camp so far.

Last season for Midland, the Athletics’ Double-A affiliate, Martin hit .300/.368/.439 in 118 games. He produced 29 doubles, eight triples, six homers, scored 68 runs, stole 25 bases, drove in 42 and had an OPS of .807. The year before he had hit .234 between high Single-A and Double-A.

“If you watched him play (Saturday) that pretty much says it all,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said Sunday before the game. “I just like the way he makes the routine play, to be honest with you. And, at times, he’ll make the really good play. He’s a real accurate thrower. He’s just really shown that he’s a real sound defender so far in camp. We’ve talked a lot about the importance of defense and how we are going to prioritize defense, and Richie is doing everything that we’ve asked from a defensive standpoint.

“He’s an aggressive swinger too, and he’s had some really good at-bats and he’s driven baseballs to all parts of the field. He’s strong. So, I think the more he gets comfortable and acclimated, it seems like he’s playing better as he goes along.”

Richie-Martin-A's-Portrait-Sidebar.jpgAs a Rule 5 pick who must stay on the major league roster all year or be offered back to Oakland, you know he’ll get a long look here in Florida.

“I mean, that doesn’t really concern me. It’s their decision,” said Martin, who went 1-for-3 with an RBI in Saturday’s 9-1 win over Boston “They make the decisions and picks, and all I can do is play. I can just control what I can control. Been getting some good pitches to hit. Up here, you can’t miss good pitches. You have to care of the mistakes. Feels good getting more at-bats and getting back into the groove of things.”

Martin was a first-round pick of the Athletics, No. 20 overall in 2015, out of the University of Florida. He was signed to a $1.95 million bonus. He played some big-time college baseball.

“Playing at Florida was a great experience,” he said. “The SEC is, in my opinion, the best conference in the country. You don’t get any breaks. I would say the SEC on a Friday or Saturday is like, I would consider it a Double-A game. Double-A, Triple-A, big leagues, because a lot of those arms make it to the majors. Very tough competition, day in and day out.”

So Martin is off to a good start and has become a strong candidate to make the opening day roster and also a solid candidate to be the starting shortstop. The O’s coaching staff has been fun to play for, he added.

“They’re great. The whole staff has been very welcoming. I really like his (Brandon Hyde’s) philosophy and the way he goes about things. Nothing but good things to say.”

Orioles.com today: When the Orioles play the Twins today, I’ll have play-by-play coverage on the live stream audio-only broadcast at 1 p.m. on orioles.com and the MLB At Bat app. Hope you can join me. O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias is scheduled to join me early in the game for a few minutes.

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