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American League transition should be a good thing for Rays’ Jose Martinez

The trade from St. Louis will provide more opportunity for the defensively challenged player.
In this July 2019 photo, the Cardinals' Jose Martinez (38) celebrates a first-inning homer against the Giants at Oracle Park in San Francisco. [CHRIS BROWN  |  CSM via ZUMA Wire]
In this July 2019 photo, the Cardinals' Jose Martinez (38) celebrates a first-inning homer against the Giants at Oracle Park in San Francisco. [CHRIS BROWN | CSM via ZUMA Wire]

PORT CHARLOTTE — During his first four years in the majors, Jose Martinez was somewhat of an American League player stuck on a National League team, his defensive liabilities limiting his offensive opportunities without being able to serve regularly as the designated hitter.

Now that he has been traded from the Cardinals to the Rays, Martinez, 31, is excited for the chance to take more swings.

“Definitely," Martinez said. “When there is more opportunity, it means more hitting and more playing time, that’s my stuff. If I’m out there, I’m going to be happy. If I’m not, I’m going to be happy because you get to enjoy doing what you love. I’m excited, and going to try to get ready."

Martinez’s playing time was limited in St. Louis, as he would either be relegated to pinch-hit duty or be taken out early for defensive purposes when he did start at first base or in the outfield. In four seasons, Martinez started 259 games but finished only 144, and made 97 pinch-hit appearances.

Related: Rays reliever Jose Alvarado feeling better with parents out of Venezuela

With the Rays, the right-hander is expected to be primarily the DH against lefties, against whom he has a career .331 average and .976 OPS.

“Four at-bats in a game, that’s going to be joyful, 100 percent," he said.

Martinez said he will rely on his new coaches and teammates to help him transition to playing in the American League.

“I had some people talk to me and say it’s going to be better for me, certainly in the hitting way,” he said. “There’s going to better pitchers and different kind of situations, but you have to adjust. You’ve got to trust your teammates to give you advice, and that’s what I need to do, adjust and go ask around."

Miscellany

About 30 players were in the clubhouse and/or on the Charlotte Sports Park fields Monday, getting an early start on spring training, which formally opens with the first official workout on Thursday. … Starter Tyler Glasnow was among the pitchers throwing bullpen sessions, working a bit on the splitter he is planning to add to his repertoire. … More than a dozen minor leaguers were also working out, including overall No. 1 prospect Wander Franco and 2019 top draft pick Greg Jones. … Acquired in the Emilio Pagan deal, Manuel Margot will wear No. 13. … Among the changes to the now 12-year-old spring complex, a new and larger weight room was added by renovating and adding on to an offices/meeting building, and the batting cages were enclosed.

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