PEORIA, Ariz. -- The first Opening Day in the Majors for any player is a special moment, and Mariners shortstop Ketel Marte appreciates what awaits him Monday, when he'll take the field against the Rangers at Globe Life Park in the 1:05 p.m. PT season debut.
"When you sign with a professional team, you're just looking for that moment," said the youngster from the Dominican Republic. "Now I've got the opportunity to get in Opening Day at this level at just 22 years old. You just have to work hard. That's it."
Marte impressed the Mariners last year, when he put up a .283/.351/.402 line with eight steals in 57 games after being promoted from Triple-A for the final two months. And he's done nothing but build on that with a strong spring.
First-year manager Scott Servais has seen enough that he'll bat the switch-hitter second behind new leadoff man Norichika Aoki against left-handed starters, which means he'll bat No. 2 against Rangers southpaw Cole Hamels on Monday.
"He's a young player maturing, physically as well as mentally," Servais said.
And Marte brings an element of speed, along with Aoki and No. 9 hitter Leonys Martin, that the Mariners haven't had in recent years.
"He's very aggressive," Servais said. "Obviously he's fast. He can really run. He will have the green light until we take it off. I want him to put pressure on the defense and make them uncomfortable. That's part of his game. He likes to be the guy kind of juking around out there, making sure everybody notices him, and I'm OK with that."
Said Marte: "We all just have to get on base. If we do, we can win some games. Because now we've got Leonys and Aoki and we can run."
Veteran second baseman Robinson Cano has taken Marte under his wing and been a positive influence since Marte's arrival with the big league club last season.
"We've been talking a lot," Marte said. "He helps me a lot, how I'm going to play, how I can play at this level. He's a special person for me in this team."
And one of the messages for Marte is to stay within himself, focus on his defense and ability to get on base and just do his part on a team with plenty of offensive weapons in the middle of the order.
"If I play consistent on defense, everybody knows I can hit," Marte said. "If I stay consistent in my defense, I can be here for a long time."
And if the youngster holds true to that, this might be Marte's first Opening Day with the Mariners, but it won't likely be his last.