Martin looks to extend hot stretch at plate

Martin looks to extend hot stretch at plate

SEATTLE -- Leonys Martin has already set a career high with eight home runs in his first two months with the Mariners, but it's the little things he's done lately that have both the athletic center fielder and his manager smiling.

Martin went 11-for-20 (.550) with five walks in addition to three homers in six games on Seattle's 5-1 road trip to Baltimore and Cincinnati, raising his batting average from .200 to .252 and his on-base percentage from .271 to .331 in that span.

Martin went 2-for-4 in Monday's 5-0 loss to the A's. He has 13 hits in his last 24 at-bats.

With 16 walks in 42 games, the 28-year-old already exceeded his 2015 total of 14 in 95 games for the Rangers when he hit .219 with a .264 OBP. He knows manager Scott Servais values that approach, which is why Martin found himself leading off for the second game in a row in Monday's series opener against the A's.

"That's part of my game," Martin said. "Try to get on base and create situations to score runs. The small game. I'm trying to do everything I can."

Servais slid Norichika Aoki down to the No. 8 spot in the order on Monday after hitting him first all season until dropping him to second behind Martin on Sunday. With Martin getting four hits in a 5-4 win over the Reds, he earned the chance to stay atop the order. It doesn't hurt that Martin is 7-for-10 on stolen base attempts this year, while Aoki is 2-for-8.

"It's not really anything Aoki has done wrong, it's just an opportunity to ride the hot hand," Servais said. "Leonys has done a little better job stealing bases and is a little more of a threat there at the top of the lineup. You still have to get on base to steal them, that plays into it. Aoki has a proven track record, no doubt, but we're just going to ride the hot hand right now. I'm not going to read anything more into it. That's just what it is."

WORTH NOTING

• Reliever Tony Zych played catch in the outfield on Monday for the second straight day as he continues working his way back from a sore right shoulder that put him on the 15-day DL on May 3. Zych said he's thrown five times in the past week and has felt much better the last few sessions, but has no timetable yet for when he might throw off the mound and begin ramping back up.

• Servais said veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit was much sharper in his eighth-inning duty in Sunday's win over the Reds, his second outing in six days since returning from a three-week DL stint. But Servais said he'll try to steer away from back-to-back outings initially for the 38-year-old set-up man.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.