Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin is still learning the game, but manager Ron Washington says he’s come a long way.
Martin started showing improvement in the second half last season, Washington said, as he learned when to use his explosive arm and when to holster it. And more than that, Washington said, he’s becoming more adept at knowing where to go with his throw.
“As young as he is, his instincts will continue to develop,” Washington said. “His instincts haven’t totally developed yet. In actuality, he hasn’t played a whole lot of baseball so his instincts will continue to develop.”
Martin, 26, credits his work with Rangers coach Gary Pettis, who he says had similar skills during his playing career.
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“He’s helped me a lot,” Martin said. “He’s tried to transfer what he did as a player to me. I’m working on every single part of my game. I’m going for more [steals] this season. I’ve really been working hard.”
He showed off his speed on the base paths (36 steals) and excellent arm strength that was not always properly harnessed during his first full major league season a year ago. He had 14 outfield assists in ‘13, third most for the Rangers in 22 years.
“So far this spring he’s been throwing the ball to the right bag,” Washington said.
He’s been better at knowing where to play for each hitter and he’s done a better job of checking with the dugout when he’s not sure, Washington said. He’s gauging when he has a chance to throw a runner out and when it’s smarter to keep the double play in order, Washington added.
“[His assist numbers] may go down because other teams will stop challenging him,” Washington said. “But I think he let them know he can throw last year. We just want him to get smarter — when, why and how.”
On the base paths, Martin isn’t going to catch opposing pitchers by surprise in 2014. He’ll need to be smarter, Washington said.
“All of it is going to predicated on his intelligence. They certainly won’t take him for granted so he’s going to have to pick his spots, run when he can, take what they give him,” Washington said. “Everything he gets this year he’s going to have to earn.”