Martin aims to move past last year's ordeal

Indians outfielder looks strong so far this spring

March 5th, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Yonder Alonso's bear hug pretty much summed up what everyone who knows Leonys Martin, has played with him or has simply followed his story since last season feels when they see the center fielder.

"My friend!" Alonso said, loudly and enthusiastically, briefly interrupting Martin's interview with three reporters on Tuesday. "Wow!"

Then came a big bear hug from Alonso, Martin's teammate in 2017 with the Mariners and, fleetingly, last year with the Indians. Given that Martin's season ended six games after the Indians acquired him at the Trade Deadline because of a life-threatening bacterial infection, it's easy to understand Alonso's over-the-top greeting when the two passed each other near the cages during the Tribe's 11-0 win over Alonso's White Sox.

"That's my boy," Martin said, chuckling. "We train together. It's awesome to see him again."

Alonso's reaction is standard these days. Martin is, by all accounts, as strong as he always is when he first begins Spring Training, and judging from his performance at the plate, it's possible he came to camp this year even stronger than in years past.

That’s quite a feat, given Martin dropped more than 40 pounds at the height of his illness.

"We were, if not surprised, pleased, that his strength was back," manager Terry Francona said. "He got back pretty quick. It was kind of amazing how quickly he got back."

Martin is, so far, raking. Against the White Sox, he recorded his second home run in three games, this one a two-run shot off left-hander Bernardo Flores in the third inning, improving his Cactus League average to .500 (8-for-16).

"He's really swung the bat well," Francona said. "Lefties, righties .. the more lefties he sees, the better."

Martin looks forward to the day, which he hopes is soon, that he won't have to talk about last year's ordeal. But he also understands this story probably isn't going away any time soon, given the severity of his illness, his long layoff from playing and just how well he's been performing to start off the spring.

"I feel awesome," he said. "Mentally, I feel strong. Whatever happened in the past, I don't want to talk about anymore. It's time to play baseball and move forward."

This past offseason wasn't a normal one for Martin. He not only had strength to regain, but weight, too. When the bacterial infection set in, he dropped down to around 160 pounds. He’s now at a more normal 205 pounds.

"Normal" is a word Martin hopes to use a lot in the coming weeks and months as he aims to becoming an everyday player again.

"It takes time to recover and prepare myself for Spring Training and get prepared for day one," Martin said. "That's exactly what I did. It was a long way to get here, but I just have to be 100 percent and do what I love. I'm happy to be back in baseball."