I got a chance to sit and talk with Astros outfielder J.D. Martinez at today’s FanFest event. Martinez had surgery on his left hand four months ago and the first thing I asked him was how the recovery has been going.
J.D. said it is taking longer than he had hoped and the hand is still sore. He plans on waiting until Spring Training before swinging a bat, resting the hand until then, giving it more time to heel. Martinez expects to go into Spring Training ready to compete for a starting job. J.D feels confident that he can put a disappointing 2012 behind him and get back on track this spring. He talked about baseball being a sport where you have to have a short memory, saying you can’t dwell on bad at-bats or get too complacent when things are going well.
After hitting over .300 in each of his first three seasons in the minors, last season was the first time in his career that Martinez ran into struggles at the plate. Martinez says his struggles were due to the fact that he was chasing too many pitches out of the strike zone. After a hot start, pitchers began to work more carefully against Martinez. J.D started drawing more walks initially, but eventually felt pressure to swing the bat and drive in runs. Martinez says he learned a lot last season and intends on being more patient at the plate in the future. His experience taught him that taking his walks is an important factor in getting better pitches to hit.
Since he has been unable to swing a bat due to the hand injury, I asked Martinez what he had been doing to get ready for live pitching. J.D. said new hitting coach John Mallee has been working with him on the mental aspects of hitting and that Mallee is a big proponent of visualization exercises. Martinez spends time each night visualizing his swing.
It was my first opportunity to meet Martinez and I found him to be quite personable. While chatting with me and CSN Houston’s John Kelly, J.D. seemed like he was actually happy to be there representing the team. He was honest and open about the questions we asked and a couple of times we got to see his great smile. When John asked Martinez, a native of Miami, about his historic homerun in the new Marlins Stadium his face lit up.
J.D. never got that baseball back. He said the Marlins fan who caught it told the team he would give it to them in exchange for a pair of season tickets. J.D. remembered being pumped up because that longball had tied the game. It wasn’t until he got to the dugout that he realized it was the first homerun ever hit in the new stadium. He remembers the joy on his parents’ faces and says it was one of the top three moments of his young career.
I’d like to thank J.D. Martinez for speaking with me today. He seems like a tremendous young man and I look forward to seeing him celebrate more big moments throughout his career.