Leonys Martin seizes Rangers’ job in center

Posted Wednesday, Jun. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Craig Gentry is out and will be out until the All-Star break, and Engel Beltre is still awaiting his first major league at-bat.

So, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Leonys Martin is the Texas Rangers’ everyday center fielder, but it had been that way since before Gentry suffered a broken hand.

That’s likely the way it will be when Gentry is all healed up.

Manager Ron Washington said as much Wednesday afternoon and has shown as much this month, well before Gentry was injured. Martin made his 14th consecutive start Wednesday and No. 19 of June.

“It’s been his job for about 15 games,” Washington said. “Neither one of them was pulling his weight with it, and then he did.”

Martin entered Wednesday riding a career-best 10-game hitting streak, which was tied for the longest current streak in the American League, and his average during the stretch was .441 (15 for 34). He extended the streak to 11 with a leadoff bunt single in the third inning.

But he hasn’t just been dropping bunt hits and flipping singles to center. Martin had the first multi-homer game of his career Tuesday, when he hit a pair of solo shots off Hiroki Kuroda.

The regular at-bats have helped Martin heat up, but he has responded to the opportunity to play regularly.

“I feel confident knowing that someone else was confident in me playing,” said Martin, who had a .288 average with five homers and 13 stolen bases.

Relief in sight

A look at the American League pitching leaders entering Wednesday showed that four Rangers relievers ranked in the top 10 for appearances in June.

Tanner Scheppers was the runner-up at 13, Neal Cotts was one of the seven tied for third at 12, and Joe Nathan and Robbie Ross were in the 11-pitcher glut with 11 games.

Scheppers and Cotts recorded five outs apiece Tuesday, and while Nathan and Ross weren’t used, they did warm up.

Those four are the arms Ron Washington usually turns to in a tight game, and that’s not going to change even though Washington is also trying to find enough rest for each reliever.

The debut of Joakim Soria in the coming weeks, though, will help take a load off.

“He’s going to help with that,” Washington said. “We try to stay away from Robbie when we can, and we try to stay away from Schepp when we can. But if a game is going to be on the line, I’m bringing them, and they want to be in there.”

Scheppers, in his first full season, said he is holding up even though he had thrown 39 2/3 innings. He suffered his first loss of the season Tuesday.

“It’s more than I was throwing last year and more than I was in the minors,” Scheppers said. “I just try to do my job and get three outs.”

Briefly

• Alexi Ogando (shoulder inflammation) will throw a bullpen session Thursday and could be cleared for a rehab assignment. The right-hander will need at least two starts in the minors and might not return from the disabled list until after the All-Star break.

• Engel Beltre will likely be in the starting lineup Thursday for the finale at Yankee Stadium for his major league debut. He would play center field, with Leonys Martin shifting over to a corner as Nelson Cruz or David Murphy gets a day off.

• Top prospects Joey Gallo and Jorge Alfaro, both playing for Class A Hickory, were selected to play in the All-Star Futures Game on July 13. Gallo, a third baseman from Las Vegas, will play for Team USA, and Alfaro, a catcher from Colombia, will play for the World Team.

• Upper-reserved tickets for the July 4 game against Seattle can be had for $4 as part of the “$4 on the 4th” promotion the Rangers announced Wednesday. A fireworks show will follow the game.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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