Rookie Martin shines on tough night: 'Props to him'

Twins' No. 15 prospect picks up first 2 MLB hits, only batter not to K vs. Dodgers' Glasnow

April 10th, 2024

MINNEAPOLIS -- The last thing a deeply slumping Minnesota offense needed on Tuesday night was to face the overwhelming stuff of Dodgers ace Tyler Glasnow -- and, indeed, the result for much of the night was probably their most difficult performance amid this trying season-opening stretch.

More of what the Twins could need, though, is what they saw from rookie .

Amid a sea of mostly fruitless swings and unproductive contact, Martin stepped up with the first two hits of his career -- both doubles -- and was the only Twins hitter not to strike out in their 6-3 loss to the Dodgers and a nearly untouchable Glasnow at Target Field.

That’s the kind of thing that could earn a guy more playing time.

“I mean, anyone can do that right now,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Anyone that goes out there and battles out good at-bats and hits balls hard and plays the game the right way -- he always does -- anyone that wants to do that right now is probably going to earn some at-bats and get an opportunity to go out there and play.”

Even setting aside the Twins’ offensive woes, the Twins agreed Glasnow was in rare form -- except against Martin, the Twins’ No. 15 prospect per MLB Pipeline, who roped a sinking line drive to right-center out of the reach of James Outman in the third inning for that first hit, after which he got an extra ovation when he ran out to his left-field position the following inning.

“Just going out to left field and hearing everybody cheer, that was a cool moment,” Martin said. “I think that was honestly the coolest moment out of the whole thing.”

Martin added another double -- a hard line drive down the left-field line -- off Glasnow in the sixth, as he accounted for two of Minnesota’s three hits off the hard-throwing right-hander.

The final score was less lopsided than it was for most of the evening, since Minnesota did cut into the Dodgers’ lead upon Glasnow’s exit with homers from , and in the final two innings. But for most of it, a masterful Glasnow accentuated the Twins’ continued struggles to make contact in meaningful situations -- or, really, at all.

The Twins struck out 14 times against Glasnow, making him the first player in the pitch tracking era (since 1988) to strike out at least that many hitters in a start on fewer than 90 pitches. By the end of Glasnow’s seven-inning appearance, 39 of the Twins’ previous 42 plate appearances had resulted in outs, including 19 strikeouts. The Twins are obviously aware that needs to change.

“I had my normal two-strike swing that I flipped into from Pitch 1 today,” Jeffers said. “Everybody's got their own thing that they can do with two strikes. We've got to limit the strikeouts, put the ball in play more, make things happen. We all know that.”

That sort of simple, contact-oriented approach is how Martin has always looked whenever he’s been at his best, from college to the Majors, as he’s made a name as an athletic, bat-to-ball hitter who can rope line drives and play all over the field. And given the state of this team’s health and offense, there’s a lot to be said for that.

As Baldelli noted, there’s opportunity for any hitter who can provide some spark in this challenging time, and though the Twins originally brought Martin up to the Majors as their primary center-field depth behind Byron Buxton and a platoon option against left-handed pitching, there’s playing time to be had in the corner outfield due to Max Kepler’s right knee injury.

Wednesday’s series finale against the Dodgers could provide some indication of whether Martin’s results will push him into the fold over, say, a struggling Matt Wallner, even with another right-hander, Bobby Miller, on the mound.

“Just trying to take advantage of every opportunity I get,” Martin said. “You know, tomorrow is not guaranteed, so I'm just trying to be in the moment and be present. Just enjoy my time here and compete to the best of my ability.”

Jeffers noted that there’s still no panic in the Twins’ offense, which remains confident in its talent, but the urgency in Baldelli’s rhetoric is picking up, with the skipper saying, “you don’t want the season to start to get away from you.”

Martin has shown the skill set to find some results against a tough opponent -- and perhaps that’s a spark for the scuffling Twins.

“[Glasnow] was better than all of us today -- except Austin,” Jeffers said. “Props to him.”