MESA, Ariz. -- Eric Martins was drafted by the A’s in 1994. It took 26 years of grinding through the Minors, but he’ll finally get his shot in the big leagues, only in a different role than he originally anticipated.
Despite compiling a career .276/.359/.376 slash line over seven seasons in the Minors, Martins never played an inning in the Majors. He kept his playing dream alive until 2004 before taking a few years off to reassess things. In '07, he reunited with the A’s as a scout and things took off pretty quickly.
Martins’ eye for talent quickly brought good fortune to the organization. In his time as a scout from 2007-14, Martins was responsible for discovering several future big leaguers, including A’s star Matt Chapman. Martins then moved on to a coaching role, taking over as hitting coach for Oakland’s Double-A affiliate in 2015, and he again moved his way up the ladder this offseason, becoming an assistant hitting coach on A’s manager Bob Melvin’s staff.
“It was an honor when Bob called me in the offseason and asked me to be on his staff,” Martins said. “It’s one of those things where, it’s always your goal to coach in the big leagues, but in an organization I’ve been with as a player and scout, I pretty much bleed green and gold. Just being able to come up here and see these guys on a day in and day out basis now and be on the big league team, I’m humbled and honored.”
“It always helps having guys who have seen you take a ton of at-bats and a bunch of swings,” Olson said. “A lot of us had E-Mart in the Minors, and while [A’s hitting coach Darren Bush] does a great job, just having an extra guy who has been there and seen you do different things and knows a little better what works for you, to have those two together working on us is going to be good.”
Martins will be making his big league coaching debut this season a year after his hitters at Triple-A Las Vegas led the Pacific Coast League with a .902 OPS. He's already a familiar face around camp, having been brought in for Spring Training the past few years to work with some of the hitters alongside Bush.
There also isn’t much the two need to change in terms of hitting philosophy, as Oakland’s offense has ranked among the best in baseball the past few years. The A’s finished fourth in the American League in homers (257) and fifth in RBIs (800) and OPS (.776) last season.
“It’s just being able to have some dialogue between the two of us on what we want these guys to be doing,” Martins said of his collaboration with Bush. “Maybe it’s a different approach that I come in with these guys and still give the same message, but maybe in a different way that makes more sense to them. I’m also a different set of eyes for Bushy if there’s something that, and he never misses anything, but just that one small percent that he misses something, I can let him know what I saw. We’ve had a dialogue with these guys to where we’re on the same page as far as our approach of what we want these guys to do.”
In an era of baseball where so much analytical information is digested, Melvin said that having an extra hitting coach is essentially a necessity.
“Being a hitting coach is such a big job now,” Melvin said. “With the analytics and the reports you get, you try to do individual reports for guys against individual teams, there’s a lot of time put into the cage and advanced work that takes two guys.”
There’s more to the job than hitting, however. With former A’s third base coach Matt Williams' departure for a managerial job in South Korea, Martins will also be tasked with filling Williams’ void as infield coach alongside Al Pedrique.
“I love the hitting side of it, the defensive side, the whole game,” Martins said. “I love coaching and being able to step outside of the cage a few minutes and work with the infielders. It feeds my brain a little bit more instead of just thinking about hitting constantly.”
There were already times last year when hitters in the Majors would reach out to Martins during the season seeking advice and a different perspective. Martins, who regularly watched Oakland, obliged by breaking down film with them. That resource for hitters will now be more easily available.
“Number one is having that relationship with these hitters so you can work together,” Martins said. “When you’re trying to implement some changes or do some stuff, you have that relationship where it’s a collaborative effort between the player and myself, not just me telling them what to do. Now, being able to see them on the big stage and perform, it’s fun.
“We have a good connection already. I know their swings and what they like to do. Being able to touch on a couple things here and there with a different set of eyes will be fun.”
Up next: Cactus League opener start time pushed back
The original start time for Saturday’s Cactus League opener between the A’s and Cubs at Sloan Park in Mesa has been pushed back from 12:10 p.m. PT to 5:10 p.m. PT due to inclement weather expected throughout the morning. Left-hander A.J. Puk is still scheduled to start, with Mike Fiers and Chris Bassitt starting separate split-squad games on Sunday afternoon.
Melvin responds to Ortiz
Following comments made by former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz on Thursday in which he said that A’s pitcher Mike Fiers "looked like a snitch" for his role as a whistleblower in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, Melvin showed support for Fiers.
“What’s the alternative? Just let it continue?” Melvin said. “There are things that go on in the clubhouse that you say stay in the clubhouse. This was beyond that. We’re talking about front office people hooking up video. This wasn’t just a clubhouse thing. This needed to stop, and this was the only way it was going to happen.”