Friday, February 12, 2016

Michael Martinez returns to majors

Ultimately, the Phillies decided they needed insurance at shortstop. So Michael Martinez is a major-league player again.

Michael Martinez returns to majors

(David J. Phillip/AP file photo)
(David J. Phillip/AP file photo)

WASHINGTON — When the Phillies evaluated potential roster replacements for Chase Utley on Wednesday, team officials said a middle infielder was not a priority. Freddy Galvis, obviously, will assume the majority of Utley's at-bats. Kevin Frandsen can play second and third, so if a shortstop was required, Galvis could slide over.

Ultimately, the Phillies decided they needed insurance there. So Michael Martinez is a major-league player again.

Martinez, 30, was hitting .239/.306/.284 in 121 plate appearances for triple-A Lehigh Valley. That was just slightly better than his career majors line of .188/.241/.272 in 356 plate appearances. His .590 OPS was the worst among all current IronPigs position players.

But Martinez can play shortstop, and that is what earned him a promotion and a prorated $490,000 salary for however long he is present. Martinez was not on the 40-man roster, which is now full.

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The Phillies chose Martinez over Pete Orr, a veteran utility man who has limited experience at shortstop. (Orr is hitting .245/.290/.415 for a .705 OPS at triple A.) They decided there was no room for Darin Ruf, who is mired in a 3 for 31 slump with 12 strikeouts.

Yes, playing time would have been slim for Ruf. There are two opportunities Monday and Tuesday when the Phillies need a designated hitter at Fenway Park. But the Phillies are committed to their current outfield and Ruf is still learning left field.

It's fair to wonder if the 26-year-old Ruf will ever master the position. He likely projects as a major-league bench bat, which is nothing to scoff at, but the Phillies did not believe that role was best for him right now.

Martinez has the sixth-worst OPS in Phillies history among players with at least 350 plate appearances. The list:

1. Pete Childs .462 (1902)
2. Bert Adams .471 (1915-19)
3. Harry Pearce .499 (1917-19)
4. Joe Lonnett .505 (1956-59)
5. Ray Hamrick .506 (1943-44)
6. Michael Martinez .512 (2011-13)

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