We’ve seen some players over the last few years completely alter the trajectory of their career after overhauling their swing. Jose Bautista is the prime example. Ben Zobrist is another good one.
Will J.D. Martinez be the next to join the list?
Martinez watched video of Miguel Cabrera and other sluggers last year before he began implementing alterations to his swing over the winter in Los Angeles and then in the Venezuelan Winter League. The 26-year-old told FOXSportsDetroit.com that he “decided to change my swing – completely."
"I had held my hands high and had an early foot stride with a wide stance,” Martinez explained. “I dropped my hands low, got a smoother stride and a straighter stance."
Martinez said he’s made just “minor tweaks” to his swing this season, and he seems to have perfected it. The outfielder went 2-for-5 with a double and a two-run homer in Tuesday’s win over the Rangers, pushing his season batting line to .314/.346/.619 with eight homers and 29 RBI over just 37 games. He’s gone deep six times over 63 plate appearances this month, with five of those longballs coming over his last eight contests.
Martinez boasts a career .332/.394/.548 minor league batting line, but he stumbled with a .251/.300/.387 slash over three big league seasons with the Astros before they released him during spring training. However, between Triple-A and the majors this year, Martinez has homered 18 times in only 198 plate appearances. That’s one short of his career high for home runs in a professional season, and it took him 596 plate appearances to get there that time. There’s no denying that the new swing has brought much more power.
Andy Dirks (back) is due back soon and Rajai Davis has had a pretty solid year, but playing time won’t be an issue for Martinez if he keeps hitting. Is the “new” Martinez here to stay?
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Arrieta Flirts with Perfecto
Jake Arrieta’s ERA actually went up Tuesday. Considering he took a perfect game into the seventh inning, however, we’ll forgive him.
The Cubs right-hander continued to roll along Tuesday, retiring the first 18 batters he faced before Billy Hamilton singled up the middle to lead off the seventh. Arrieta could have been gassed from running the bases in the bottom of the sixth, as he went on to allow two additional hits and two runs. The 28-year-old struck out nine on the night and didn’t walk anyone.
Arrieta is a former top prospect who was a disappointment with the Orioles but who has found new life in the National League. He boasts a 2.05 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 64/15 K/BB over 57 innings this season and a 2.82 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 101/39 K/BB ratio across 108 2/3 frames since joining the Cubs. The stuff has always been there with the right-hander, and he’s finally cashing in on his promise.
Monday had the look of a last straw situation for White Sox closer Ronald Belisario, as he blew his fourth save chance when he allowed a walk-off, three-run homer to the Orioles’ Chris Davis. But there was manager Robin Ventura backing Belisario a day later in the media before giving him another save chance. Belisario converted this one, but not before he allowed an inherited run to score on two hits.
Belisario is obviously on very thin ice, as his next blown save will surely mean a demotion. Daniel Webb has the best stuff in the bullpen but hasn’t been trustworthy due to a lack of control. Zach Putnam has probably been the team’s best reliever this season and has been Belisario’s main setup man of late. However, Javy Guerra was warming up Tuesday while Belisario was on the mound and he also has closer experience. Both Putnam and Guerra are worth scooping up if you're speculating for saves.
One closer situation that’s already seen a change occurred in Anaheim, where Ernesto Frieri is out and Joe Smith is in. Angels manager Mike Scioscia indicated last week that he didn’t have a set closer, but he gave Smith the save chance Tuesday and said the side-armer would be the man he called upon in the ninth inning for now.
"We're going to keep Joe in the back end for right now until Ernie gets his feet on the ground and his game comes back," Scioscia told the Orange County Register.
Another closer situation that should be monitored is the one in Arizona. Addison Reed blew his third save of the season Tuesday and has now been scored upon in 12 of 33 appearances this year, putting up a 4.18 ERA. On the other hand, his 38/6 K/BB ratio is excellent and his conversion rate (17-of-20) isn’t awful. If the D’Backs did make a change, Brad Ziegler would seem to be the likeliest to succeed Reed, though young fireballer Matt Stites could be a sleeper option.
National League Quick Hits: Starling Marte exited Tuesday's game against the Rays with concussion-like symptoms after taking a knee to the head ... Giants manager Bruce Bochy indicated after Tuesday's game that Angel Pagan (back) would be placed on the disabled list Wednesday ... Clayton Kershaw tossed eight shutout innings Tuesday in his first start after his no-hitter ... Hanley Ramirez sat out Tuesday due to irritation of the A/C joint in his right shoulder, but he could return as soon as Wednesday ... Tyler Chatwood (elbow) felt tightness in his right forearm following a live batting practice session Tuesday ... Ryan Zimmerman went 3-for-7 and hit the game-winning two-run home run in the 16th inning as the Nationals outlasted the Brewers Tuesday ... Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said after Tuesday's game that Shelby Miller (back) is expected to be ready for his next scheduled start ... Devin Mesoraco homered in his fifth-straight game in Tuesday’s loss to the Cubs ... Mark Trumbo (foot) is expected to be cleared to run the bases before the end of the week ... Andrew Cashner (shoulder) will play catch on Friday ... Brandon Belt (thumb) will begin a rehab assignment on Thursday at High-A San Jose ... Grady Sizemore signed a minor league deal with the Phillies ... Christian Bergman will miss six weeks after being diagnosed with a broken bone near his left thumb ...
American League Quick Hits: Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Tuesday that there's a chance CC Sabathia (knee) will return by the All-Star break ... Kyle Seager remained hot Tuesday, going 2-for-4 with a double, home run, and four RBI in a win over the Red Sox ... Derek Holland (knee) will go through another extensive fielding practice this week before being cleared to begin a rehab assignment ... The Red Sox have moved Felix Doubront to the bullpen, electing to keep Brandon Workman in the rotation ... Tyler Skaggs (hamstring) will make another rehab start before rejoining the Angels’ rotation next week ... Clay Buchholz (knee) will rejoin the Red Sox' rotation on Wednesday against the Mariners ... Shane Victorino (hamstring, back) is hoping to be activated from the disabled list on Friday ... Jeremy Hellickson (elbow) will make at least one more rehab appearance at Triple-A Durham before rejoining the Rays’ rotation ... The Rangers called up Carlos Pena Tuesday and plan to play him regularly at first base ...