Gentry, Martin helping the Rangers turn the page

Posted Saturday, May. 04, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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lebreton The rest of the league probably yawned when it heard the news from the Texas Rangers last winter that Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin were going to be sharing center field.

Just do the math. Josh Hamilton — 43 home runs last season, 128 runs batted in.

Gentry and Martin — 249 combined games in the major leagues, 2 home runs, 49 RBI.

It was like replacing a monster truck with a moped.

Gentry and Martin sounded more like the names of Hamilton’s agents than his replacements.

But every franchise, sooner or later, has to turn the page.

In free agent Hamilton’s case, the pages merely weren’t turned. The books were burned.

The Rangers elected not to overpay him. Hamilton and his wife, in turn, declared it was God’s will that he sell out for the most money and sign with the Angels of Anaheim. He returned in April to a spirited welcome.

And 30 games into the season, the Rangers don’t seem to be looking back.

With David Murphy scratched from the lineup Saturday night with a stomach virus, Martin and Gentry started in left and center field, respectively, for the first time, as the Rangers defeated the Boston Red Sox 5-1.

Suffice to say, it was a decidedly different look. Both hitters, still struggling to find their major league stride. Both players, blessed with exceptional foot speed. Both outfielders, able to chase down anything hit their way.

The trade-offs from a year ago are obvious. Hamilton finished the month of April in 2012 with nine home runs, 25 RBIs and a .395 batting average.

Gentry and Martin, not quite that much.

But as Hamilton’s absence is proving, there is more than one way to fill a void.

Martin, born in Cuba 25 years ago, remains inconsistent at the plate, but his swing shows increasing flashes of the .323 hitter he was in the minor leagues. His third-inning single Saturday raised his season average to a growing .273.

Gentry, meanwhile, salted the game away with a soaring, two-run, eighth-inning home run into the left-field seats. Earlier, his hustle with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth inning had led to an infield single and two go-ahead runs.

Again, just do the math. On the first weekend in May, Hamilton is baseball’s most disappointing player. He’s batting .207 for the Angels with two home runs and nine RBIs.

Gentry and Martin, meanwhile, batting at the bottom of the Rangers order, have a combined two home runs, eight RBIs and are hitting a collective .257.

And better yet — no headaches. No wondering at night if Josh is safely tucked in. No smokeless tobacco withdrawals. No blue eyes crying in the shade.

Hamilton was high maintenance. Gentry and Martin are more like wind-up toys. Easy to like, fun to watch.

It would be foolish to suggest that Hamilton’s departure hasn’t been felt in the current Rangers lineup. But which Hamilton are they missing, if I may ask? The April, 2012, Josh or the September one?

Martin likely is hitting coach Dave Magadan’s next big project. Nobody bats .359 and posts a 1.032 OPS, as Martin did last year at Round Rock, without knowing how to hit.

After Saturday night’s hit, Martin is batting .343 in his past 13 games. Better, he hasn’t let his quest for consistency at the plate carry over into the outfield.

Nor has Gentry. When both are in the lineup at the same time, we saw Saturday night, anything hit between the left-field foul line and the Rangers’ bullpen in right-center is likely to be chased down.

The Red Sox began the night ranked second in the American League in runs scored, but managed only one against Alexi Ogando and three Texas relievers. Gentry and Martin had more than a little to do with that — seven fly ball outs.

On this night, suffice to say, Josh Hamilton was not even remotely missed.

Every franchise, sooner or later, has to turn the page. Gentry and Martin, we saw Saturday, can clearly help the Rangers turn one.

The Rangers hold the lead in the AL West. Their former star outfielder’s new team remains eight games back.

All math aside, nobody at the ballpark seems to be looking back.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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