ARLINGTON, Texas -- Cuban outfielder Leonys Martin was in Arlington on Wednesday, preparing to head to Double-A Frisco in time for Thursday's game with Corpus Christi.
Martin, 23, spent the last 10 days in Arizona and played in five extended spring training games. He batted .438 (7-for-16) in five games.
"He did everything the guys expected,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "He gets on base. He has an intelligent approach at the top of the order. He has a line-drive approach. He showed he was tough out. He stolen bases, he bunted, he’s a plus runner. We expected there to be some rust, to his credit he did very well. Young competition, but it’s still live games. We’re ready to give him the next challenge."
Daniels said the biggest thing for Martin is facing live pitching because he last played for Cuba's national team in Japan during the FISU World University Championship in July and August and defected after that. Martin hit .326 with 10 homers and 48 RBIs in 82 games (322 at-bats).
“We're excited to add this kind of talent to our organization, this kind of person, this kind of makeup, especially giving the timing April, May, you don’t see many impacts players picked up this time of year," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "That kind of adds to the excitement. It says something about our scouts and our mindset.
“It says a lot about ownership that they were willing to support us and step out in a pretty substantial way in which is a relatively new market for this organization as far as impact players coming out of Cuba.”
Martin didn't want to discuss the details of his defection, but he came to the United States via Mexico. His father and girlfriend are already here, which he says gives him a comfort level. Martin said he did get a chance to watch some major league action while in Cuba and is a fan of Jose Reyes. He did say that seeing other Cuban players make the transition, like Alexei Ramirez, Yunel Escobar and Yuniesky Betancourt, helps as he embarks on his journey toward the majors.
"Today is an unforgettable moment for myself," Martin said through a translator. "This is something I’ve always dreamed of, is to play at the highest level in the world which is the major leagues. That was the idea to get to the highest level of baseball. I’m very proud to be in this organization and having my dream come true."