Richie Martin on strong spring, learning from José Iglesias

SARASOTA, Fla. - He can be optioned this spring, as the Rule 5 restrictions no longer apply when it comes to infielder Richie Martin. It’s just that so far in camp, he’s doing all he can to keep that from happening.

He made more starts at shortstop last season than anyone on the Orioles, but the club has since acquired José Iglesias to play there. Martin could stick as a second baseman and/or utility candidate.

The end of camp numbers game might get him and he might be sent to Triple-A - a level he’s never played at previously.

Martin-Slides-Orange-sidebar.jpgBut through 10 spring games he’s batting .320 for the Orioles, going 8-for-25 with four extra-base hits and a .970 OPS. He has two doubles, a triple, a home run and seven RBIs, second on the club to Chris Davis, who has nine.

“I’m just taking it day by day,” Martin said this afternoon. “I feel good. Just go out every day and try to control what I can control. I’ll take that same approach every day.”

His bat got better during the 2019 season. He hit. 208 for the year. But, after batting .166 in the first half, Martin hit .284/.321/.392 with a .713 OPS in 51 games in the second half. He hit .379 in September.

Martin’s 89 starts at shortstop were the third-most by a rookie in Orioles history, behind Cal Ripken Jr. with 91 in 1982 and Ron Hansen with 149 in 1960.

Martin admits his ability to time premium fastballs was critical last year as he made improvements during the season. He’s just not going to explain what changes he made to do that more effectively.

“Yeah, I worked on a lot of different things,” he said. “I don’t want to get into specifics, because the game is changing, man. You let something out like that and next thing you know there is a pitcher in the league ready to attack that part of your game. But I did make adjustments and I think that is what the game is about, making adjustments on the fly. Pitch to pitch, game to game, at-bat to at-bat. So, yeah, it’s all about adjustments.

“Also, experience helps. Being around guys that have been through it. Advice from older guys and coaches. And just putting in the work every day. Because that’s really the only thing that can propel you to success. Putting in work and preparing and seeing the results come from daily reps.”

Martin has taken some reps at second base this spring and took grounders at third early in camp. He said he’s ready for anything with the glove and is comfortable anywhere. He is also taking time to learn more about shortstop from Iglesias, who has made over 700 big league starts there.

“He’s a really smart man and everything he does has a purpose, which is cool to see,” Martin said. “And cool to be up close and personal with. I love the way he approaches his day. He’s really good at explaining why he does certain things. So, I’ve been able to pick his brain with that. Sometimes I just sit back and watch and I pick up things just watching him do his work. He’s unbelievable. He’s one of the best in the world, so it would be wrong to not take advantage of his mind.”

Martin talked as he sat at a table outside the Orioles clubhouse today with reporters keeping a distance of about six feet from him. It was an unusual scene, coming on the first day that Major League Baseball mandated that clubhouses to be closed to media over coronavirus concerns.

Martin was asked his take if it escalates to the point that MLB postpones and or cancels spring training or regular-season games.

“That would be a little disappointing,” he said. “But whatever it is to keep everyone safe. That is the No. 1 priority. You want to play in front of our home crowd and on the road. But if that is what needs to be done, that is probably the best way to go about it.”

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