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Martinez shows off his talent

April 13, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

Fernando Martinez has found himself in baseball's fast lane from the day he met the New York Mets organization.

But the Hagerstown Suns centerfielder may have shifted it all into overdrive on Wednesday in the oddest of ways.

He slowed down.

The 17-year-old mega-prospect waited for the game to come to him and responded with four hits and four RBI - none bigger than his two-out RBI double in the 10th inning - to lift the Suns to a 6-5 victory over Lakewood to complete a three-game sweep over the BlueClaws in the home-opening series.

It was just time for Martinez to get into the flow of the season.

"I slowed the game down today," Martinez said through the translation help of Suns hitting coach Luis Natera. "I was jumping at the ball. I made the adjustments and stayed back and hit the ball better."

Martinez, who signed a $1.4 million contract with the Mets at 16, had his local coming-out party of sorts, boosting his average from .280 to .355 with a single, two doubles and a triple.

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"I don't know if it was a coming-out party, but he had a heck of a night," said Hagerstown manager Frank Cacciatore. "He's been doing this all along, but now what you are seeing is where he is getting more relaxed and getting more into a routine."

If it continues, Wednesday's outing might have been an introduction to the South Atlantic League for the rest of the season.

Martinez set the table with a towering two-run double off the center-field wall in the second and an RBI triple to the left-center field gap in the sixth as the Suns took a 4-1 lead.

The biggest shot came in the 10th, with the game on the line after the Suns squandered the lead before fighting back to tie it in the eighth.

Second baseman Hector Pellot started the 10th-inning rally with a leadoff single - his third hit of the game - off Lakewood reliever Michael Zagurski (0-1). Jonel Pacheco advanced Pellot with a sacrifice bunt before Drew Butera drew an intentional walk.

After Jonathan Schemmel flew out to left, the left-handed-hitting Martinez matched up against lefty Zagurski. Martinez opened his stance and laced the ball just inside the first-base bag to allow Pellot to score easily with the game-winning run.

"I wasn't thinking about a home run," said Martinez, who needed to leave the park to complete the cycle. "I just wanted to put the ball in play. With a left-handed pitcher, I needed to make better adjustments."

Martinez's hit made a winner of Eric Brown (1-0), Hagerstown's fourth pitcher of the night. Brown relieved Josh Appell with one out and the bases loaded in the Lakewood 10th. He coaxed Fidel Hernandez to hit a comeback grounder to the mound for a force play at home, then struck out Dennis Diaz to preserve the tie.

"That was a big strikeout for us," Cacciatore said. "It was nice to see. We came back and we gave them another chance. Those things are big after you take a three-run lead and they come back. It is definitely a confidence builder."

The Suns grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first on Nick Evans' RBI single off Lakewood starter Kyle Kendrick. The BlueClaws tied the game in the second on Clay Harris' leadoff home run to right center off Hagerstown starter Jorge Reyes.

Martinez staked the Suns to a 4-1 lead before Lakewood (0-7) scored two runs in the seventh and eighth innings off Kevin Tomasiewicz to take a 5-4 lead. Welinson Baez doubled to right center off Appell to score the go-ahead run.

The Suns tied the game in the eighth when Pellot singled and eventually scored on pinch-hitter Jonathan Schemmel's single. Martinez struck out against Zagurski to end the inning.

Zagurski didn't get Martinez the second time, though.

"I don't think facing a lefty bothers him at all," Cacciatore said. "He just goes up there and gets what he likes. Every day is a building block (for the Suns). Their character is to never quit and that is the mainstay every night."

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