Though he didn’t hit two home runs like Yairo Munoz, Jose Martinez did provide the fourth inning single which resulted in the St. Louis Cardinals scoring their first run of the game in their 10-9 victory this afternoon.
“The most important thing for Spring Training is just get some good at-bats, get some productive at-bats,” said Martinez recently. “You’ve just got to mentalize that you have to do something to help the team and that’s the idea for me.”
It was the first hit of Grapefruit League play for Martinez, but his swing is already feeling good after playing in 15 games for La Guaira in his native Venezuela this winter.
“Any of the guys that play any kind of Winter Ball at all, they’re ahead at some level,” commented Mike Matheny after watching an early batting practice this spring. “You could tell the timing was already right–and that’s a guy that can hit. I think he looks good. Everything looks just as we had hoped. How he ended last year, it’s hard to deny the value he could bring the team.”
A career .294 hitter in the minors and posting a .309 (84-272) average last season with 14 home runs and 46 runs batted in, there is confidence Martinez will be able to again deliver at the plate. He’s been working to gain that same confidence with his defense, especially at first base. He played exclusively at the corner instead of mixing in some outfield this winter.
“I think it’s a big difference,” said Martinez of his comfort level there compared to last spring. “Actually, right now I realize that 90% of the stuff that I’m doing or I’m practicing and I’m learning is about mental. It’s all mental preparation. You just go out there and try to make some plays–it’s not like you’re trying to rush and make plays or try to make something happen. I think the effort that you give everyday or in the game or in practice, to gain that confidence is important.”
The various first base drills are then followed with extended conversations. Sometimes it’s Jose Oquendo. Sometimes it’s Oliver Marmol, John Mabry, or even Matheny.
“For me, it’s been great,” said Martinez. “Just talking–situationally and I think I’m getting the idea. When I go out there and take ground balls, I do feel like I’m going to get every ground ball hit to me. That’s the most important thing. I’m going to go out there and keep progressing at the things that I’m doing.”
Martinez figures to get a good amount of playing time this season at first base as Matt Carpenter may be shifted around to various other positions to take advantage of particular pitching matchups.
photo credit: Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com