Leonys Martin has always taken great pride in his defense. His ability to prevent runs and extra-base hits in the outfield is one of the reasons why he is here. Knowing he can help his team with his glove is something that has carried him through offensive struggles throughout his career. While he has always taken pride in his defense, he has been thrilled to talk about his newfound offense.
“I wish I could do this every day,” he told me following a 4-for-5 day at the plate Sunday in Cincinnati.
He’s been doing it quite a bit of talking lately, be it an on the field one-on-one interview or in the clubhouse with the media post game. Since seeing his batting average hit a season-low .182 on May 2, Martin has a slash line of .345/.418/.569, with eight walks compared to 13 strikeouts. Average, check. Power, check. On base, got it.
While the change has been dramatic, it has been anything but quick. Mariners hitting coach Edgar Martinez has worked with the 28-year-old in the cage, going to work on the bat wrap he developed. He moved his hands and slightly changed his stride. Sluggers Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz have also provided input. Cano, as a fellow lefty, sets the example.
“Every time you see that kind of hitter you learn something,” Martin said. “He’s always on time. He’s always ready to hit. He swings at what he is looking for. He goes to home plate not trying to do too much. Try to hit the ball hard, and that’s a little thing he told me when I was a little bit strong the night before.”
Cano sits in on many of Martin’s cage sessions and even put him through his net drill on the field.
“Sometimes I have got a good swing and my hands are quick, and Robbie tells me, ‘Don’t try to hit the ball so hard, you swing too hard.’ ‘Robbie, that’s my swing, man, I don’t know how I am going to control that. It’s too hard.,'” Martin said. “And he told me you can swing hard, but short and quick, short and quick. You don’t have to be too long. I am happy to have those guys next to me; they know more than me about hitting.”
While Cano has given Martin advice, Cruz has given him his bat. A little heavier than his usual model, Martin said he could feel the difference immediately. He felt more control, more balance and believes it has helped keep his swing shorter.
“I’ve been using Heavy Boy,” he said referring to Cruz’s bat. “That’s one of the reasons why I have the quick swing. Short and quick has made the difference. When you feel the swing a little bit long you are in trouble. You are going to miss the fastball. In this game when you miss the fastball, you are in trouble.”
The work in the cages and the changes are paying off, not just in results, but better at-bats.
“I feel like I am recognizing the ball a little bit earlier,” he said. “That’s part of my game. If you are on time, if you recognize the ball early you will know if it is a ball or strike. Know the situation and it’s all about confidence. I feel amazing at home plate right now. Know the situation, get a little bit of anticipation, be aggressive but at the same time be under control at home plate.”
That is what we have seen. The work has led to success and that success could lead to more.
“I have got my confidence back,” Martin said. “That’s all I was looking for.”