Leonys Martin jumps to second spot in Rangers’ lineup

Posted Saturday, Jul. 13, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Leonys Martin took his turn in the revolving-door No. 2 spot in the Texas Rangers’ batting order Saturday night as manager Ron Washington tries to find a spark at the top of the lineup.

Martin has been one of the Rangers’ top hitters the past month from the No. 9 spot, batting .357 in the past 24 games to lift his average to .291. He jumps behind leadoff man Ian Kinsler against right-handers in place of David Murphy, whose average is .217 after a hitless night there Friday.

Murphy struck out with two outs and the bases loaded in the fourth inning after the Rangers had scored two runs against Doug Fister. Elvis Andrus has also batted second this season.

“I’m just trying something and hope that he can help spark us there with Kinsler,” said Washington, who will ask Martin to sacrifice bunt or hit-and-run even though he hasn’t shown those abilities consistently yet.

Martin said that he is comfortable hitting at the top of the order, where he hit much of his career in the minors. He believes that the responsibilities of No. 9 hitters are similar to those of No. 2 hitters.

“My approach doesn’t change,” he said. “You just have to move the guy in front of you and let the guys behind me do their job.”

Progress for pitchers

The scene Saturday afternoon at Comerica Park had to fill the Rangers with some sense of hope as three injured pitchers took to the field for some on-field activities.

Right-hander Colby Lewis threw 46 pitches during a session of live batting practice that served as the final step before he begins a rehab assignment Wednesday at Double A Frisco.

As he worked, left-hander Matt Harrison played long-toss at up to 200 feet, and righty Yu Darvish played catch.

Darvish will return before the others, likely July 22, after resting a fatigued trapezius muscle, and Alexi Ogando’s return is coming soon. But progress is being made by Lewis and Harrison as the Rangers try to get their pitching staff back to full strength.

Lewis, who had a torn flexor tendon fixed almost a year ago and has suffered of late from triceps tendinits, seemed especially upbeat after his second live BP of the road trip.

The big thing for him, Lewis said, is that his fastball had more carry, a sign that his other pitches will have more effectiveness as he continues to build arm strength.

“It was a lot better today, that’s for sure,” Lewis said. “I just need to go out and continue to feel right. I don’t think I’ll be of much help if I’m not right.”

Ogando (shoulder inflammation) is scheduled to throw six innings or 95 pitches Thursday for Triple A Round Rock, which could make him available for the Rangers’ fifth game after the All-Star break on July 23.

Harrison (back surgery) is hoping to throw a bullpen session Friday before the Rangers kick off the second half of the season against Baltimore.

Justin Grimm, who left his start Friday after 3 1/3 innings, is said to be day to day with forearm stiffness. His arm was still stiff a day later, but no exams had been scheduled.

“I’m just going to keep rehabbing and go from there,” said Grimm, who could try to play catch Sunday. “If your elbow’s going to be sore, it’s sore in the right place.”

The relief corps got good news, too, as right-hander Neftali Feliz (Tommy John surgery) has been cleared to throw live batting practice Monday in Arizona. He could return in mid-August, as well.

Honor for Ortiz

Left-hander Joseph Ortiz struck out his Venezuelan countryman Miguel Cabrera on Friday night, and with it came a “Wow” and a nod of a job well done from the reigning Triple Crown winner.

Ortiz said the pitch was a changeup in a spot where Cabrera was probably looking for a fastball. It seemed like the rookie left-hander could hardly believe his good fortune and struggled to contain the big grin on his face.

“I started to chuckle, but I tried to hide it as much as possible,” said Ortiz, who met Cabrera over the winter and received some words of encouragement from him. “It’s a wonderful thing to receive a gesture like that from a hitter of his stature. You never expect that, but it tells you what kind of person he is as an elder giving respect even to a rookie like me.”

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

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