The Rangers may step up their pursuit of Lance Berkman now that Nelson Cruz will be sidelined for three weeks following yet another hamstring injury, but an intriguing in-house replacement is on his way from the minor leagues.
According to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, prospect outfielder Leonys Martin will take Cruz’s place on the active roster tomorrow.
Martin, who defected from Cuba last year, was added to the 40-man roster after signing a five-year, $15.5 million contract with the Rangers in May. The 23-year-old batted .348/.435/.571 with four homers, 24 RBI and a 15/8 K/BB ratio over 135 plate appearances with Double-A Frisco, but has struggled a bit since being promoted to Triple-A Round Rock last month, hitting .263/.316/.314 with a .630 OPS over 192 plate appearances. Still, he has plus-speed and is highly regarded for his defense in center field.
It wasn’t too long ago that the Rangers were considering using Martin as their primary center fielder down the stretch, but given his struggles in Triple-A and the strong play of Endy Chavez, that’s unlikely to happen now. Wilson believes that David Murphy will serve as the primary right fielder during Cruz’s absence, so Martin will likely function as a backup outfielder and pinch-runner down the stretch.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.