‘Cat Watch: J.D. debuts

Outfielder J.D. Martinez joined the Houston Astros at around 5 p.m. central time on Saturday, officially reaching the major league team. It didn’t take long for Martinez to see some action: he pinch-hit for reliever Aneury Rodriguez in the bottom of the eighth inning, stepping to the plate for his first big-league at-bat.

Martinez took the first pitch for a strike and then swung at a low fastball, driving it deep to center field. The ball short-hopped the fence off the warning track two panels to the right of the 400-foot mark in dead center, going for a stand-up double that scored Humberto Quintero from first base.

(VIDEO: Watch Martinez double in his first big-league at-bat)

ValleyCats manager Stubby Clapp was Martinez’s hitting coach at two stops on his way up the minor-league ladder – at Rookie-League Greeneville in 2009 and at Low-A Lexington in 2010. He was not surprised to hear how Martinez debuted.

“That’s baseball as usual for him,” Clapp said. “That’s what he does – he hits. I’m very happy for him, he’s worked hard to get to that point and I hope that he has a solid career.”

Martinez, who played for the ValleyCats in 2009 and led the New York-Penn League in hitting, was called up to replace another former Tri-City player, Hunter Pence. When the outfielder batted for the first time, he became the 23rd former ValleyCat to reach the big leagues.

“It was definitely exciting,” Martinez told MLB.com. “You go up there to the plate and my mind was just, ‘Hit something hard. Don’t embarrass yourself.’”

Clapp spoke glowingly of Martinez’s drive and work ethic.

“He’s a consummate professional,” Clapp said. “He’s teachable. When you get a player that will come to you and ask their own questions, that’s special. Sometimes players are scared to ask questions, but J.D.’s not scared – no matter how small the question is, he’s going to come ask it.”

Martinez made his first career start this afternoon, drawing a walk in four plate appearances.

Kevin Whitaker

 

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