Jose Reyes remembers the batting-practice showcase a 16-year-old Fernando Martinez displayed at Shea Stadium shortly after signing with the New York Mets in 2005 for $1.3 million. It came that summer, as the phenom became the first import of what was promised to be a wave of Dominican talent that would flock to the organization as a result of Pedro Martinez's signing.
"I mean, he was hitting home runs all over the field," Reyes recalled. "Left field. Right field. It was unbelievable."
New York Mets
Well, six years later, Martinez has averaged only 77 games per professional regular season because of assorted injuries. And Mets observers who are conditioned for outfield prospects to receive hype and then fall flat -- Alex Escobar and Lastings Milledge, anyone? -- already have assigned Martinez to that failed group.
Yet while Martinez may have an awfully arthritic right knee for a 22-year-old, he still is just a 22-year-old. And Friday night at Minute Maid Park, Martinez offered a reminder of the power that seduced the Mets and awed Reyes in the first place.
Promoted from Triple-A Buffalo for a bench role when Ike Davis landed on the disabled list Thursday -- in large part because there was no healthy and productive first baseman on that minor league club -- Martinez launched a critical pinch-hit homer Friday. The two-run shot off Houston Astros right-hander Bud Norris in the eighth, coupled with a two-run homer by David Wright later in the inning and an RBI double by Jason Pridie in the ninth, lifted the Mets to a come-from-behind, 6-4 win in the series opener.
"Sometimes I feel like an old man, because I came in here like '09," Martinez said with a laugh, referring to his major league debut.
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