It Was a Start for J.D. Martinez

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

All along the Mets had their eyes on J.D. Martinez and his debut in the lineup. The six-time All-Star with a career 315 home runs was a late spring training signee but was put on hold with lower back stiffness. The Mets hope a power surge behind Pete Alonso would increase their ability to score runs.

Friday night at Citi Field, Martinez received a nice ovation from another slim crowd, and it was the moment his team and Mets fans anticipated. Martinez, signed to a one-year contract, was never considered a savior to a lineup that has been inconsistent in the early going of April baseball.

But there was that anticipation because a healthy and productive Martinez in the lineup, primarily in the DH role, would be a difference maker. He delivered with an RBI double in the sixth inning. With the double, Martinez is eighth among active players in doubles (387) and RBI (1003)

The Mets, though were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Jose Butto (1-1), consistent on the mound, has pitched into the sixth inning in six of his last nine starts dating back to last September, but not this night delivering 5.2 innings. Two homers that put up four Cardinals runs hurt him in back-to-back early innings but look at the big picture here because Martinez can deliver with outstanding numbers during a 13-year big league career.

Just trying to go up there and be competitive,” Martinez said. “That was my whole thing today. Just put the ball forward. I did it twice. The other ones. I didn’t put it forward.”

After the Mets opening of a three-game series, 4-2 loss to the Cardinals, Martinez was content. Manager Carlos Mendoza said his team had decent at-bats but could not capitalize on their opportunities with runners in scoring position.

And this Mets offense also needs Alonso, Francisco Lindor, Jeff McNeil and Starling Marte to be consistent because it’s not only about the addition of Martinez, though Mendoza knows his new addition to the lineup is a boost.

Same hitter I have sensed over the years,” commented Mendoza. “This is a guy that’s always going to be tinkering with his swing. I don’t think he’s ever going to tell you that he feels 100 percent, if he feels right. That’s who he is. Putting his name on the paper was a good feeling. But at the same time. I don’t think it’s fair to put that pressure on him.”

Martinez, though, had some good swings. The second inning he drove a Miles Mikolas sinker to the opposite field for his first career Mets hit. His next at bat went the distance for a home run but resulted in the RBI double to right field, the second of two Mets runs, the first run scoring on a Tomas Nido solo home run to right-center in the fifth.

The back injury has been a lingering problem for Martinez and the process to bring him to the lineup has been slow and cautious. Regardless, Martinez displayed the attributes he brings to the lineup. There will be caution and Martinez is expected to have a regular slot in the DH role.

But the presence of this all-star and three-time Silver Slugger Award winner does make the Mets lineup more interesting with that potential to score more runs and often. Baseball, though, is timing and Martinez will have early struggles as he acclimates himself back into an everyday role. He played three minor league rehab games before his Mets debut.

He said, “My body feels good. There’s nothing like facing big league pitching. I’ll try to grind through here and help as much as I can and get my bearings and getting in a routine again. Getting a hit’s always good.”

Indeed, this is a right-handed presence in the lineup that is sorely needed. And Mets batters have the third fewest strikeouts in the majors, leading the National League. But it’s the good at bats and the Mets cashing in the runs with consistency that did not occur Friday night.

Martinez said it was overwhelming to be here. He will be in the lineup again Saturday afternoon and Mendoza will give him rest every third or fourth game. The Mets and Mendoza are confident this perennial All-Star will eventually have the timing and will get into that daily routine.

Martinez has 291 home runs since 2014, fifth-most in the majors. The Mets have scored three runs or fewer 13 times in their 25 games. He said he wants to make an impact and is getting to know his new surroundings.

The new surroundings worked well in his debut. Either way the Mets have that experienced bat in their lineup.

Rich Mancuso: X (Formerly Twitter) @Ring786 Mancuso

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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