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Clubhouse Chatter - Martinez adds dynamics to batting order

July 30, 2006

The true worth of Fernando Martinez can be measured in any number of ways.

The New York Mets placed the 17-year-old outfielder into the high-rent district by signing Martinez to a free agent contract with a $1.4 million signing bonus.

That still pales in comparison to what Martinez means to the Suns, though. To Hagerstown, he's priceless.

The Suns are a much different team with Martinez in the lineup, something that has been lacking because of two lengthy trips to the disabled list. Still, when he's healthy, he's the catalyst.

In plain terms, Martinez is the Suns leadoff batter in the lineup and he has the keys to their ignition.

"Anytime you have a person of his quality, it enhances your lineup all the way down the line," Suns manager Frank Cacciatore said. "With in the top, it makes everyone better."

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Martinez had an instant impact on the Suns since his return from a knee injury on July 19. The Suns are (7-1) since his return, including a seven-game winning streak. But even in the games wasn't at his offensive best, his has made a hit or a play to help the Suns.

"He's a great player," said outfielder Jesus Gamero. "It's great to see him in there and to see what he has been able to do since he got off the disabled list."

Martinez has reached base in every game since his return, going 13-for-39 with nine RBI while scoring six times. He is hitting .324 in 40 games with three home runs, 20 RBI and 21 runs scored.

The true testament to his value is in the record. Hagerstown is 22-19 with him and 21-41 without him.

But that's not to say he's done it all himself.

"He helps make everyone better," Cacciatore said. "(Will) Vogl has done a nice job since joining us. (Nick) Evans has been good and (Jonel) Pacheco and Gamero have come on. Fernando isn't going to do everything ... he didn't have a good night (Wednesday) ... but he helps make everything else go well."

Suns spots

Pitcher Jonathan Niese was named the South Atlantic League's Pitcher of the Week for July 17-23. The left hander had his best outing of the season in a complete-game shutout of Lexington on July 19. He allowed three hits while striking out nine.

The Suns made a pair of roster moves on Wednesday as infielder Matt Anderson and pitcher Jeff Landing were placed on the disabled list.

Anderson is slowed by a ankle sprain while Landing is suffering with a strained right shoulder.

The Suns received pitcher Nick Abel and infielder Todd Lietz to replace them. Abel was at Brooklyn while Lietz was promoted from Kingsport.

Abel, a right hander who won his Wednesday debut in relief, was signed as a free agent this year and was 0-2 with a 3.07 ERA for the Cyclones. Lietz was hitting .268 in 18 games at Kingsport and was signed as a free agent in 2005.

The Suns are 13-1 in games that start before noon over the last five years.

During their seven-game winning streak, the Suns had outscored Lexington and Kannapolis, 45-13.

Jesus Gamero was 9-tor-17 with 11 RBI this week heading into Saturday's game. He has raised his batting average 72 points to .309, while moving his RBI total from two to 13.

A look ahead

The Suns play the final two games of the homestand today and tomorrow against Asheville (Rockies). After an off day on Tuesday, the Suns start an eight-game road trip through the South Atlantic League's Southern Division with division-leading Augusta (Giants) before heading to Greenville (Red Sox) on Sunday.

The Suns return to Municipal Stadium on Aug. 10 to face Greensboro (Marlins).

Bob Parasiliti covers the Hagerstown Suns for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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