Compact Martinez pops clutch

July 16, 1991|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Evening Sun Staff

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- For a guy who looks like he could take a full swing in a telephone booth, Chito Martinez generates a lot of power.

Just ask Bryan Harvey.

The California Angels' ace reliever, on the scene to protect a 1-0 win for Kirk McCaskill, ended up the loser last night because he couldn't get one more out.

A two-out single through the middle by a power hitter and a

two-run home run by someone who looks like a slap-hitting singles man gave the Orioles a stunning 2-1 win over the Angels here last night.

Martinez drilled a 1-and-0 fastball on a missile trajectory into the rightfield seats, his second major-league home run. This is a guy who has made a habit of hitting 20 or more homers in the minor leagues (21 last year at Omaha, 20 in a half season at Rochester this year), but has a swing as deceptive as his size.

"He's very compact, but he gets a lot of bat speed," said Orioles hitting coach Tom McCraw.

"And the ball jumps off his bat," said former manager Frank Robinson, making this trip in his new role as assistant to general manager Roland Hemond.

There are broom sweepers with longer strokes than Martinez, who has 180 powerful pounds packed into a 5-foot-10 frame. "He has quick hands, strong wrists and a short stroke," said first baseman Randy Milligan, whose single set the stage for the Orioles' dramatic comeback.

In between Milligan's single and the home run by Martinez was a daring stolen base by pinch-runner Brady Anderson. The move was a definite risk because Harvey gets the ball to home plate at better than 90 mph and catcher Roy Tingley had thrown out 10 of the previous runners who had attempted to steal this year.

But, manager John Oates obviously was playing to tie, rather than hope for the long ball -- and Martinez was thinking right along with him. "I was just trying to get Brady home," said Martinez. "The home run was just an accident, but that's what happens when I concentrate.

"I don't mean that I always hit homers, but they come when I concentrate on hitting the ball hard."

The Angels obviously were not concerned about the long ball from Martinez. After his single to left in the second inning, the Angels played their outfield close to sandlot depth the rest of the night.

The game's interesting conclusion presented conflicting opinions of who holds the upper hand in first-time confrontations the hitter or the pitcher.

Harvey and Martinez had never faced each other and the same was the case when Orioles reliever Todd Frohwirth closed out the game by impressively retiring Dave Winfield, Lance Parrish and Gary Gaetti in the bottom of the ninth.

"In that situation, I feel like I have the advantage," said the soft-spoken Martinez. "He doesn't know me. He's not expecting me to drive the ball."

Harvey features a fastball "with some hump on it," in Milligan's words, and a nasty forkball that is his out pitch once he gets ahead in the count. "The guys on the bench told me the forkball was his best pitch, but that he would come after me. They said he would try to get ahead with a fastball and that I should jump on it if I saw it."

Martinez saw it and he jumped. "When I hit it, I knew it was out," he said.

Advantage to the hitter.

With Gregg Olson having worked the last four nights, Frohwirth was summoned to protect the lead for Jeff Ballard (6-9). "I think the pitcher has the advantage in that situation," said Frohwirth. "The hitter really doesn't know what I'm going to do in certain situations.

"Big-league hitters like to try to get to a count where they know what a pitcher is going to throw," said Frohwirth. "With me, they didn't know what I was going to do when it was 0-and-1 or 0-and-2.

"When I struck out Winfield with a slider, the next hitter has got to be thinking about that. Then I got the next guy with a sinker, so the third guy doesn't have much of an idea."

Advantage to the pitcher. Match point to the Orioles.

Martinez and Frohwirth were both minor-league free-agent acquisitions by the Orioles last winter. Those are the type of players the Orioles have been prone to deal with, and their history of providing opportunity is what led Martinez into the organization.

"Four teams called us [he is represented by Larry Reynolds], we didn't make any calls," said Martinez. "The Orioles and Milwaukee were the top two and the others were the Cubs and Indians.

"I was offered more money by one other club [a signing bonus by Milwaukee]. I came here because they told me I would get the opportunity, that all I had to do was go to Rochester and prove myself."

Twenty home runs in half a season goes a long way toward proving oneself at Triple A, and now Martinez is getting the opportunity he craved.

The next time, the Angels will have a "book" on Martinez and Frohwirth. It was a painful first chapter.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.