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Martin hits inside-the-parker for first spring HR

Tigers' center fielder, potential leadoff hitter puts speed on display during unique round-tripper
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Leonys Martin said at the start of Spring Training that he didn't want to fall into the trap of trying to hit for power. His first home run in a Tigers uniform was more of a display of speed.

"I felt like I was never going to get to home plate," Martin said of his inside-the-park homer in Sunday's 6-3 win over the Braves at Joker Marchant Stadium. "I was running for my life."

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LAKELAND, Fla. -- Leonys Martin said at the start of Spring Training that he didn't want to fall into the trap of trying to hit for power. His first home run in a Tigers uniform was more of a display of speed.

"I felt like I was never going to get to home plate," Martin said of his inside-the-park homer in Sunday's 6-3 win over the Braves at Joker Marchant Stadium. "I was running for my life."

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As soon as Martin's sixth-inning drive hit the center-field fence and bounced past Atlanta's Lane Adams in right-center, Martin could seemingly sense his opportunity for an inside-the-park homer, picking up speed just past first base. He was barely around second base when third-base coach Dave Clark began waving him home, and he beat the throw with enough time that he probably didn't need to slide.

"I thought that ball was out of the ballpark," Martin said. "I hit it pretty good."

The solo homer was a highlight for Detroit on Sunday. The Tigers will hope it's a highlight of things to come for their new center fielder and potential leadoff hitter.

Manager Ron Gardenhire has been hitting Martin leadoff all spring to get him extra at-bats and see what he could do atop a batting order, despite a low on-base percentage for his career. He's batting 9-for-33 (.273) this spring with two extra-base hits, two walks and six strikeouts.

Video: DET@NYY: Martin leads off the game with a single

Martin feels better than the numbers at this point, and said he put in work to see pitches better and take a more disciplined approach, in addition to getting away from lifting balls in the air and trying to hit for power. Martin walked and scored in the third inning, sandwiched between a first-inning lineout and fourth-inning strikeout. He says he's open to hitting wherever the Tigers put him.

"I just want to play, man," he said. "I want to be in the lineup, no matter where. If they give me an opportunity to be a leadoff hitter on this team, I will do my best, but I just want to show up and see my name in the lineup. I like to play this game every day, show up to play every single day."

Martin was part of a lineup filled with projected regulars Sunday, although Gardenhire said he's far from deciding a lineup or batting order. Gardenhire's meetings with the Tigers' analytics department began a couple days ago. They have not gotten into potential lineups yet, though Gardenhire said they will.

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"If you go by past history, the probability is that they won't spit [Martin] out number one," Gardenhire said. "Who's to say that from now forth, he might have an on-base percentage of 38 percent? Sometimes people adjust, when you do the talking about putting the ball in play and keeping it out of the air. He's actually put some really good swings up. He's excited to be up there. Sometimes it just rolls that way.

"But I know there's other options. There's a good probability that the computer might spit out that [Miguel Cabrera] should be the No. 2 hitter in our lineup. But I can guarantee you that ain't gonna work. I can promise you that. Miggy's going to be my No. 3 hitter. That is part of the old-school, so me and the computer will fight on that one. I might unplug it."

Roster moves
The Tigers assigned infielder Dominic Ficociello to Minor League camp before Sunday's game. The non-roster invite, a 12th-round Draft pick in 2013 out of Arkansas, hit 2-for-9 with two doubles, two RBIs, three walks and four strikeouts in eight Grapefruit League games. He split last season between Triple-A Toledo and Double-A Erie.

Up next
Matthew Boyd makes his latest audition for a spot in the Tigers' rotation Monday in a 1:05 p.m. ET matchup against the Nationals in Lakeland. Former Tiger Edwin Jackson is scheduled to start for Washington. Boyd has yielded six runs (five earned) on nine hits over eight innings with eight strikeouts in three starts so far this spring. The game will be broadcast live on MLB.TV and MLB Network.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Leonys Martin