Chito is making Orioles name for himself in hurry

August 16, 1991|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Evening Sun Staff

Reyenaldo Ignacio Martinez doesn't know what "Chito" means. And he isn't sure where the nickname came from, although his family told him that's what they used to call his grandfather.

He was born 25 years ago in Belize, Central America, and came to this country with his family when he was 2. His father Joe had an opportunity in New Orleans in the heating and air conditioning business, selling and installing. He works in that field to this day, although at the moment he is back in Central America.

"It's been Chito ever since I can remember," Martinez said. "I was called that all through grade school. It stuck."

The name and the man are making an indelible impression on major-league baseball. An Oriole for only six weeks, Martinez tops major-league rookies with a .333 average.

He went 2-for-4, drove in four runs and clubbed his eighth home run in the Orioles' 9-2 victory over the Texas Rangers last night before 32,557 at Memorial Stadium.

The Orioles will take a five-game winning streak -- their longest of the season -- into their three-game series against the Brewers tonight (8:35, Ch. 2) in Milwaukee. They haven't lost since being stifled by Chicago's Wilson Alvarez on a no-hitter last Sunday. Their four-game sweep of Texas was their first in 13 months.

Martinez appears to have American League Player of the Week stamped all over him. He is 10-for-15 with two doubles, three home runs and seven RBIs. Not the picky sort, he has hit three homers in the last two games off a fastball, curve and changeup.

"There's no one in this organization who could look you in the eye and tell you he thought Chito would do this well," manager John Oates said. "I wouldn't have expected Glenn Davis to do this well. I mean, eight home runs in 108 at-bats. If we had a couple more like him . . . "

Originally signed by the Kansas City Royals in 1984, Martinez is only now reaching the majors. The Orioles signed him as a free agent last November and sent him to Rochester, where he had a .322 average, 20 home runs and 50 RBIs when recalled July 5.

Oates is seeing for himself that Martinez's power is legitimate. Early in the season, when Martinez was hammering Triple A pitching, Oates asked Rochester manager Greg Biagini how many of the homers were "Rochester home runs." Rochester's park is not as big as Memorial Stadium.

"One or two at the most," Biagini told him.

Still, "I never expected to do this well," Martinez said. "Not nearly. I guess it's patience, not trying to do too much and going to the plate with a game plan.

"The pitchers are smarter up here and try to key on your weaknesses. They hit spots more. Stuff-wise, there's not much difference."

Martinez did all of his damage last night against Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, who was assaulted over seven innings for 14 hits, a Rangers record for one pitcher.

"They should pitch Martinez inside," Texas manager Bobby Valentine said. "We never threw the ball in there."

The blossoming of Martinez means a reduced role for Dwight Evans. The 39-year-old outfielder is taking it graciously.

"Chito does so many things well at the plate and in the outfield, I'm just surprised no one gave him a shot before," Evans said. "He's got a swing to hit 20 home runs in the majors. The only thing you'd like to see is how he does after he goes around the league a couple times.

"But with his short stride and quick swing, and the way he sees the ball so long, I can't see him having problems. It's just a beautiful swing."

This doesn't mean the end of the line for Evans, however. Oates will continue to use him in a variety of situations.

"Some rightfield against lefthanded pitching, some DH-ing," Oates said. "A lot of pinch-hitting, in the eighth and ninth inning when he can bust a game open.

"If I'm back next year, I'll push for Evans to come back, too."

Said Evans, "I know my role since Chito has come up, and I've accepted it. It's fine. I kind of like pinch-hitting. I look on this as my own fault. I was given a job, but I broke down [got hurt]."

Another rookie, Leo Gomez, chipped in with a triple and a three-run homer, his ninth, giving him the league rookie home run lead. All of which made it a breeze for Jose Mesa, who pitched a three-hitter and the Orioles' first complete-game win since Ben McDonald went the route against the California Angels May 17.

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