ARLINGTON -- On Aug. 28, 2010, Leonys Martin defected from Cuba and fled to Mexico. He played in the Cuban National League and decided to pursue his dream of playing in the Major Leagues.
He had secretly watched Major League Baseball on television in Cuba and wanted to be there himself. On Tuesday, that dream came true when Martin joined the Rangers to replace Nelson Cruz, who has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring.
"This is a great opportunity the team has given me," Martin said before the Rangers' game with the Rays. "I feel sad about what has happened to Nelson, but I have a chance and an opportunity to get to play. This has been very quick, but I have a chance and an opportunity to get to play."
Martin gives the Rangers four left-handed-hitting outfielders. The others are Josh Hamilton, Endy Chavez and David Murphy. Craig Gentry, who has been platooning in center with Chavez, is the only right-handed hitter in the outfield.
Chavez and Martin are similar players in that they are both left-handed hitters who rely on speed more than power and can both cover ground in center field. The big difference is Chavez's experience and success at the Major League level.
Chavez was in center field on Tuesday against Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson. Manager Ron Washington isn't sure when he'll be able to get Martin in a game.
"We're going to give him an opportunity, when it comes and where it comes, I don't know," Washington said. "I'll just try to pick and choose when I'm going to use him out there."
Martin was an amateur free agent after leaving Cuba and agreed to a five-year, $15.5 million contract in May. He batted .295 with four home runs, 16 doubles, five triples and 42 RBIs in 73 Minor League games before being called up on Tuesday. He also had 19 stolen bases, and his best asset at this point may be giving the Rangers speed off the bench.