Martin has sights set on Rangers' leadoff spot

Banister giving center fielder a chance at top of lineup

Martin has sights set on Rangers' leadoff spot

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers manager Jeff Banister has been tinkering and experimenting with his lineups this spring. So far Leonys Martin has been spared from constant tinkering.

Banister said on Saturday he is committed to giving Martin a chance to be the Rangers leadoff hitter.

"That's the direction I would like to go," Banister said before Saturday's game against the Padres. "I would really like him to lock down the leadoff spot and be a catalyst for us. I believe he has that skill set. I like the at-bats. The at-bats have gotten progressively better. I like the speed element he brings."

Martin had 40 games in the leadoff spot last season, the majority of them coming late in the season when Shin-Soo Choo was on the disabled list and interim manager Tim Bogar committed to Martin being at the top of the order. Martin ended up with a .354 on-base percentage, the fourth highest among American League players with at least 150 plate appearances.

Choo was third with a .357 on-base percentage at leadoff last season and has more experience at the spot than Martin. But Banister is toying with the idea of batting Choo third in the order. That would put Martin, Elvis Andrus and Choo in front of Adrian Beltre in the cleanup spot and Prince Fielder hitting fifth.

"Hitting leadoff in the last part of the season, that helped me a lot," Martin said. "I know what I can do better, you've got the best hitters coming up behind you so you have to get on base and get a run anyway you can. I'm ready for that. I set my mind this offseason on the opportunity."

Banister is also willing to give Martin a chance against left-handed pitchers even though he had just a .287 on-base percentage against them last season.

That was the eighth lowest in club history among 56 qualifying left-handed hitters against left-handed pitchers.

"I'm going to give Leonys the opportunity to show his capability against left-handers," Banister said. "No doubt we have encouraged Leonys to look at other opportunities when facing tough left-handers. The bunt is an option. Controlling the strike zone. There are other ways to spark a lineup."

Worth noting:

• The Rangers lost the Cactus League game, 2-0, to the Padres. They had two baserunners thrown out on the basepaths. Prince Fielder was thrown out trying to turn a single into a double, and Carlos Peguero was nailed trying to go from second to home on an infield single. Said Banister, "Those are over-aggressive plays I stress in Spring Training. Let's find out what we can do, not what we can't do."

• Reliever Shawn Tolleson pitched a scoreless inning in the Cactus League game against the Padres. He had allowed six runs over two innings in his two previous outings, including a B game against the White Sox on Wednesday. Said Banister, "Much better outing. His fastball was in play, more velocity and carry through the zone. He had a plus, plus breaking ball."

• The Padres defeated the Rangers, 9-6, in a B game. Derek Holland pitched a scoreless inning for the Rangers and Michael Choice was 2-for-4 with a home run. Jerad Eickhoff pitched two scoreless innings.

• Saturday's game was done in two hours and 24 minutes, the shortest of the spring. Ten of 12 Cactus League games played by the Rangers this spring have been completed in less than three hours.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.