Buzz: Emotional Leonys Martin excited to start

HOUSTON -- Leonys Martin was the Texas Rangers' starting center fielder on Sunday night, less than two years after the Cuban defector arrived in Texas.

Martin, who was appreciative at his first Rangers' press conference in May 2011, showed similar emotions when asked about getting his first Opening Day start.

"It's an opportunity that I will never forget," the 25-year-old Martin said. "It's been a dream of mine."

The left-handed hitting Martin, who will platoon with Craig Gentry in center field -- at least to start the season -- got the start in center field because Houston started right-hander Bud Norris. Rangers manager Ron Washington said before the game that he started Martin strictly because of the righty vs. lefty pitcher-hitter matchup.

"Both he and Gentry have done a good job in spring training," Washington said. "I couldn't have gone wrong with either guy. I picked Martin. It's a day-to-day situation right now."

Martin had a terrific spring, batting .359 with four doubles, two triples and 13 RBIs in 26 games. Just like Gentry, he gives the Rangers speed at the bottom of the lineup as it flips back around to Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus.

Martin has adjusted quickly to baseball in America. He had three stints with the Rangers last season. He spent most of the season with Triple-A Round Rock, where he batted .359 and had a .422 on-base percentage.

Martin took that confidence, and the knowledge that the outfield situation was open with Josh Hamilton's departure to the Angels, and ran with it.

"I knew I would have a better opportunity to make the major league team this season," Martin said. "I came to camp with better attitude. I worked on things, felt more comfortable, a lot more comfortable."

Martin said he isn't worried about being one of the players replacing Hamilton in center field.

"I just want to be Leonys and not try to be anybody but myself," Martin said.

Other notes:

  • Manager Ron Washington said that new catcher A.J. Pierzynski will catch Tuesday and Wednesday against the Astros, so the first time Geovany Soto will start will be in the home-opening series against the Angels.

  • David Murphy batted in the fifth spot in the order, ahead of Nelson Cruz, to break up four left-handed hitters, with Pierzynski, Mitch Moreland and Martin hitting in the final three places in the batting order.

  • Ian Kinsler made his seventh straight opening day start at second base, the most in club history. Bump Wills made five straight starts at second base from 1977-81.

  • Relief pitcher Derek Lowe, on his 16th opening-day roster, said Sunday ranks right at the top of the list for him. "I'd put it in the top one or two," Lowe said. "Look at where I was three weeks ago, to go into camp and know you had to win a job. It's a great feeling." Lowe, a two-time All-Star who has won 175 games, was signed by the Rangers on March 6.

  • Left-fielder David Murphy, a native of Houston, said he will visit his high school, Klein High School, on the Rangers' off day Monday to watch the team practice and visit his old coaches. Murphy graduated from Klein in 2000 and went on to play three seasons at Baylor.