Martinez clears fence, not job hurdle

Extra innings

March 27, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Manager John Oates sympathizes with struggling outfielder Chito Martinez, but he isn't ready to concede him a full-time job in the major leagues just to help him relax at the plate.

"Maybe he's a slow starter," Oates said. "We'll ride it out and give him a chance. But he's not a lock to make this ballclub. He's not in any trouble right now, but he's not a lock."

Martinez entered yesterday's game against the Minnesota Twins in a lengthy slump that dates to the jammed right shoulder he suffered during the first week of exhibition play. He hit his second home run of the spring in the fifth inning to end an 0-for-21 slide, but needs to produce consistently at the plate to assure himself of regular playing time.

If he doesn't put the slump behind him, he may find himself in competition with leadoff candidate Luis Mercedes for a place on the major-league roster.

"I've been putting too much pressure on myself," Martinez said. "I have to relax and try to produce the next eight or nine days, and whatever happens, happens."

The bases-empty shot off the Twins' Willie Banks didn't hurt. Martinez had not had a hit in exhibition play since March 15. He has complained of stiffness in the shoulder that he hurt on a diving play nearly three weeks ago, but said that his problems at the plate are more mental than physical.

"I haven't felt good at the plate," Martinez said. "I don't know if [the shoulder] has had any effect, but I can't blame it on that. I've just been pressing at the plate. I'm not being selective enough. I've been swinging at anything, just trying to get a hit."

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