Batting No. 9 a 'very important' job for Martin
Tribe's new center fielder focused on getting on base for top of lineup
CLEVELAND -- After spending most of this season as a leadoff hitter for the Tigers, newly acquired center fielder Leonys Martin is being asked to bat out of the No. 9 hole for the Indians. When manager Terry Francona met with Martin upon his arrival, he explained that this was not a demotion, but an opportunity.
In Cleveland's lineup, the hitter in the ninth spot in the lineup can serve as a tablesetter for one of the best one-through-three combinations in the Majors right now. If Martin can get on base, collect some steals or connect on some extra-base hits, that creates more run-scoring chances for Francisco Lindor, Michael Brantley and Jose Ramirez.
"He certainly seems like he's willing to handle that," Francona said of Martin's move to the bottom of the lineup. "And it is important. I don't think he is a nine hitter. But for right now, that's where he's hitting. To be able to turn the lineup over to Frankie and Brant, having a guy that basically is another leadoff hitter, that's going to make our team a lot better."
Entering Sunday, the Indians had produced a .240/.282/.361 slash line out of the No. 9 spot this year. Cleveland's nine-hole hitters had collectively posted a 71 wRC+ (29 percent below the MLB average) with a 4.3-percent walk rate and a 26-percent strikeout rate.
For comparison, Martin entered Sunday's game with a 105 wRC+ overall, along with an 8.7-percent walk rate and a 22-percent strikeout rate. Against right-handed pitching, which the lefty-swinging outfielder will face most often, he had a 121 wRC+, a 9.8-percent walk rate and a 21.1-percent strikeout rate.
Given the players at the top of the Tribe's order, Martin had no issues adjusting to batting out of the last lineup spot.
"It's very important," said Martin, who belted a home run on Friday and Saturday against the Angels and went 0-for-3 in Sunday's 4-3 win. "The best hitters on the team are right behind me, so that's very important, as much as I can get on base."
Lindor pointed out that, while Martin was caught stealing in Friday's loss, the center fielder is willing to be aggressive on the bases.
"He's ready to go," Lindor said. "As soon as he gets on base, he's ready to go. He wants to score. And he takes hard swings when he's at the plate."
• Indians catcher Yan Gomes was out of the lineup on Sunday for the second game in a row due to right hamstring tendinitis. Francona noted that Gomes was on the mend, but that he would likely remain out of the starting lineup until Tuesday at the earliest.
Said Francona: "He feels pretty confident that he's going to be OK."
• Right-hander Josh Tomlin (10-day disabled list, right hamstring) is scheduled to make his next Minor League rehab appearance on Wednesday with Double-A Akron. Francona noted that Tomlin is slated for three innings in the outing.
"Yeah, it is really amazing. From my own personal experience, I worry about shelf life. Not worried because you're losing your job -- I don't think I've ever worried about that. I worry, because you want your message to be [fresh]. If your message stops getting listened to, that's not good. And you can't change who you are. So that's something that I think about a lot." -- Francona, on Mike Scioscia managing the Angels for 19 years