Tacoma Rainiers

Martin can relax, find his hitting stroke

tmilles@thenewstribune.com

Leonys Martin
Leonys Martin Clarkson Creative

Leonys Martin has been here once before.

It was 2015. Martin came in as the starting center fielder for the Texas Rangers. But after returning from an early-season hand injury, he stopped hitting. Eventually, he lost his starting spot to Delino DeShields.

And in July of that season, he was demoted to Triple-A Round Rock to find himself again.

Now, he is in the same position with the Mariners, who designated him for assignment Sunday — two days after he was benched — after he opened this season hitting just .111 with 14 strikeouts in 54 at-bats.

Martin passed through waivers, and did not waste any time reporting to the Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday in time for the Rainiers’ second homestand of the season, starting with a five-game tilt against Sacramento.

The 29-year-old from Cuba was immediately penciled into Tacoma’s lineup — leading off and playing center field. Boog Powell shifted over to right field.

Rainiers manager Pat Listach knows the priority for Martin here with the Rainiers — start hitting.

“He didn’t finish up real strong last year. He didn’t have a good spring. He didn’t have a good April,” Listach said. “The production wasn’t there.”

Martin had done extensive tinkering with Mariners assistant hitting coach Scott Brosius, who was with the Rainiers last season.

There is very little defense for hitting .111 in 15 games, or getting on base at a .172 clip.

But Martin said he was starting to figure some things out after reaching base in five of his final six games with Seattle.

“Before I got sent down, I was starting to get my feeling back at home plate,” Martin said. “I came here to keep working, and get it right.”

Listach said Martin will be an everyday fixture in the Rainiers’ lineup, regardless if he hits or not.

“Some of the pressure is off of him from up there. He still has to perform. But he can come out here and play, and not worry about if he is going to play the next day or not,” Listach said.

“If he goes 0 for 4, he’s still going to play tomorrow down here. Up there, it wasn’t like that.”

The fact that Martin wasted little time getting to work — he and his family tooled around town Wednesday during the Rainiers’ off day — is encouraging.

And before the game Thursday, he was in good spirits with his new teammates.

“That is what I need — time to get it all back, as soon as I can,” Martin said. “I want to get back to my teammates (in Seattle).”

SHORT HOPS

Infielder Gordon Beckham (hamstring), who missed the final two games of the road trip, and was out Thursday, might be put on the 7-day disabled list. The Rainiers added Joseph Rosa for insurance Thursday. … Backup catcher Steven Baron (hamstring, ankle) could return to the Rainiers as soon as Friday. In the meantime, Alexander Capriata will continue to be No. 2 behind Tuffy Gosewisch. … Former Tacoma infielder Shawn O’Malley received good news Wednesday — the birth of his first child. He and his wife welcomed a daughter (Millie Jean) in Kansas City. Listach anticipates O’Malley (appendix, shoulder) will spend some rehab time with the Rainiers next month. … The organization debuted its new party deck Thursday in time for its popular “Thirsty Thursday” promotion.

UP NEXT

The Rainiers and Sacramento continue their five-game series Friday at 7:05 p.m. Right-hander Ryan Weber (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will make his debut for Tacoma. Michael Roth (2-1, 4.26) pitches for the River Cats. All of the action can be heard on 850-AM.

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