Martinez Met with High Expectations

The young jewel of the Mets' system entered 2007 with the entire organization and fans alike affixed on his every move. He possesses the tools that exceed the limitations of most players his age. He is off to a hot start and many believe he can lead his team to success this season. Inside Pitch Magazine sat down with him as the B-Mets took the field for their home opener.

Fernando Martinez should have been allowed to have a poor game Wednesday night. Playing in front of the hometown Binghamton Mets crowd for the first time this season, Martinez was actually booed. But when you enter the game 5-for-12 on the season, and you're one of your team's best position-player prospect in years and somehow just 18 years old, your standards are different.

With one man out in the fourth inning, Portland outfielder Jeff Corsaletti hit a fly ball to left with considerable hang time. B-Mets left fielder Nick Jackson settled under it but, as manager Mako Oliveras would explain after the game, did not call for the catch, so Martinez, ranging far from his position in centerfield over to left and displaying one of his standout tools, recorded the second out right in front of Jackson. To some, it appeared as though Martinez might have made the play simply to show he could.

On the next play, Seadog DH Jeff Natale lined to shallow center, and Martinez charged hard—displaying his speed—before deciding to play the ball on a bounce at the last second. The fans, puzzled by the successive plays, booed what they incorrectly perceived to be Martinez's lack of effort, and in the case of the first play, showboating.

"I was thinking ‘No, no, it's not good,' because tonight it was not me. I don't know what happened tonight, but I'll show up tomorrow," Martinez said of his performance, which included a 1-for-5 day at the plate with one double, one walk and three groundouts to second.

But Martinez is still the kid who, after a 1-for-18 start in the Arizona Fall League, hit .304 with a 10-game hitting streak as the believed-to-be youngest player in AFL history. After hitting .193 in 119 at-bats for St. Lucie at the end of 2006, it was in Arizona that Martinez was able to find the confidence he needed to become the B-Mets' top hitter.

"What's helped me out a lot was playing in the Arizona Fall League, being one of the youngest players there—having a little bit of success gave me the confidence. I have more confidence this year, that's what's allowing me to be more prepared," Martinez said through teammate Carlos Muniz, who acted as a translator.

Martinez has been working with hitting coach Nelson Silverio to "stay through the ball, be more consistent, keep the head still," Silverio said. "He's a young kid, he's developing himself the right way, and I think he's one of the special kids."

On Tuesday night against Erie, Martinez maintained his mechanics as he knocked a slider out for a game-tying solo shot in the eighth inning. It was his first home run of the season after hitting 10 last year in just 315 at-bats. The B-Mets went on to win the game in 11 innings, which is to date their only victory this season. As Martinez goes—as special a talent as he is—so too do the B-Mets.

"We're good buddies so far, we've kind of taken to eachother real well," said B-Mets first baseman Mike Carp, who also played with Martinez in St. Lucie last season. "He's a good guy to hang out with, and his ability as a player is endless right now, he only seems to get better and better."

And with such potential comes expectations, the kinds that even lead fans to boo when not met. But Martinez took the heat because he, like the fans, knows he can be great.

Said Martinez, "I understand that there's a lot of hype on me and stuff like that. My main focus, my main objective is to get to the big leagues. It doesn't matter what people say about me, whether it be negative or positive, it's not going to distract me from my goal."

Oliveras thinks Martinez has the head on his shoulders to handle the pressure: "We're talking about a kid that is 18 years old, playing at AA, hitting third. What impresses me about him is his demeanor, the way he takes things—his approach to the game."

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