'It's a privilege': Martinez singles in debut with family in attendance

June 22nd, 2024

CLEVELAND -- Everyone wanted a piece of Orelvis Martinez postgame on Friday night.

And for good reason.

While the Blue Jays opened their three-game series at Progressive Field with a 7-1 loss to the Guardians, Toronto's No. 2 prospect achieved a lifelong goal with his first Major League hit in his debut.

About two hours after Martinez reached base via a single to open the sixth inning, he held court with his mother, sister, father, agent and trainer in the tunnel outside the visitors' clubhouse, where they took photos in celebration. Not long after, Martinez was greeted by José Ramírez, as the two Dominican Republic natives took photos and exchanged pleasantries.

“It’s a privilege,” Martinez said through interpreter Hector Lebron. “It’s a privilege to be here with my family and to play on the same field as guys like José Ramírez. It’s a great feeling for me right now.”

Martinez's hit was the culmination of three-and-a-half days of waiting, as Friday marked his MLB debut despite the fact that he joined the Blue Jays' active roster on Tuesday.

When Martinez first arrived with the Blue Jays, manager John Schneider sat down with him and circled Friday’s game as the night he’d make his debut, since Guardians starter Carlos Carrasco doesn't feature an overpowering repertoire.

“You’ve got to get him in there and see what he can do,” Schneider said prior to Friday’s game. “The time is now; go out and do what you do.”

Martinez showed what he could do in his second MLB at-bat by lining an 86.6 mph single to left-center field for his first hit. He couldn’t find his parents while he was standing on first base, but his father, Orelvi, was joyously jumping up and down from his seat down the first-base line.

Even though it didn't come at home, Martinez's debut still held meaning, because he was able to play it in front of his family. Martinez's loved ones weren't able to get to Toronto earlier this week, but they made the trip to Cleveland.

“He’s really close with his dad, so for him to be able to [make his debut] in front of them is pretty cool,” Schneider said.

Martinez’s tenure with Toronto’s big league club likely has an end date. Bo Bichette took ground balls at Progressive Field on Friday and should be ready to return when his injured list stint is up next Tuesday. Still, Schneider has loved the progress that Martinez has made since the manager first saw him four years ago.

“Strike-zone command,” Schneider said when asked how Martinez has improved. “We all know about his power, but [he’s] limiting his chase.”

The only bad news for Martinez was that this milestone came in a lopsided loss, as the Guardians picked up the win on the back of a seven-run second inning that featured a little bit of everything.

Yariel Rodríguez, who made his first start since being reinstated off the injured list with thoracic spine inflammation, opened the second frame by allowing a double after an 11-pitch at-bat against Josh Naylor. He followed that with three straight walks before he was pulled after giving up a two-run single to No. 9 hitter Austin Hedges.

“I think it sped up on [Rodríguez] a little bit there at the bottom of the order,” Schneider said. “The walks came back to hurt him. Kind of uncharacteristic of him. Just kind of a tough one for him.”

Bowden Francis relieved Rodríguez and promptly gave up three more runs on two singles and a forceout that should have been another single.

The Guardians saw 70 pitches in the inning, which is the most any team had seen in a game since the Twins saw 72 in the sixth inning in August 2014.

Ironically, it was the only inning in which Blue Jays pitchers didn’t set the Guardians down in order until the eighth.

The loss continues a troubling trend for Toronto, which has now dropped four straight after taking two out of three from Cleveland last week. The Blue Jays (35-40) are sitting 14 1/2 games back in the American League East and 5 1/2 games out of an AL Wild Card spot.

“Kind of a weird game,” Schneider said. “Uncharacteristic of us, but that can happen when you get some new guys in the lineup. Bad timing.”