WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Jose Martinez had an epiphany while watching video of Miguel Cabrera and Josh Donaldson, and he’s hit his way onto the St. Louis Cardinals’ opening day roster.
Before heading to camp this spring, Martinez worked out with fellow Venezuelans Martin Prado and Miguel Rojas of the Marlins in Miami.
“We started watching some swings from Donaldson and Miguel Cabrera, and we noticed that they don’t hit ground balls,” Martinez said. “They eliminate them.”
At that moment, Martinez, 28, decided to emulate the All-Star sluggers.
“I think we worked on that — just trying to get the ball off the ground and just trying to get the ball to the outfield,” said Martinez, a career .294 hitter in the minors who has never hit more than 11 homers in a season. “If you’ve got a different swing and you just try to drive the ball to the gap, it’s a different situation.”
The change in approach delivered immediate results. Even after his 1-for-4 night in the Cardinals’ 3-2 victory over Houston on Monday, his .367 average remains best among St. Louis players with more than 11 at-bats.
He’s tied with Matt Adams for the team lead in homers with four, and with a 6-foot-6, 215-pound frame, there’s reason to believe his spring power numbers can carry over into the season.
St. Louis purchased Martinez’s minor league contract from Kansas City last season and called him up to the majors in September, where he had seven hits in 16 at-bats.
One of the most pleasant surprises in camp, Martinez learned over the weekend that he would break camp with the big club. He beat out Tommy Pham, who’s spent parts of the past three seasons in the majors with the Cardinals, for the final outfield spot.
“It was just the long haul — he just kept doing it,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Because everybody can have a good day, but I think day after day, he looked good. It looked like he was a guy who was trying to win a position.”
Martinez offers Matheny some defensive flexibility off the bench. He’s played both corner outfield positions and first base this spring. Martinez says he’s feels most comfortable in right field, but he’s prepared to play all three spots.
As a first baseman, Martinez gives Matheny a right-handed alternative to left-handed hitting Matt Carpenter or Matt Adams.
“One time you are going to get a chance, one time you are going to get an opportunity,” Martinez said. “When you get the opportunity you need to be ready. No excuses. It’s not like, ‘I’m going to try or I’m going see what’s going on.’ No. If you get the opportunity you just go for it hard.”
NOTES: Originally scheduled to start the Cardinals’ Thursday exhibition game at Triple-A Memphis, Lance Lynn will now remain in Jupiter and pitch in a minor league game that day. The Cardinals are concerned about potential bad weather in Memphis, and Matheny said the decision is unrelated to the kink in Lynn’s back which limited him to only one inning in his most recent start.
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