Feb 22, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics infielder Jose Martinez poses for a portrait during photo day at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Heading into the 2013 season, the Oakland A’s had signed Hiroyuki Nakajima to a two-year contract out of Japan to be a power hitting middle infleder. Nakajima proceeded to not make the team and didn’t see a single day in the big leagues last season. Instead, the opening day second baseman is a guy by the name of Eric Sogard, who was dangerously close to being named the Face of MLB less than a year later. As camp opened for the A’s in 2014, Nakajima is nowhere to be found on 40-man roster, nor is he listed as a non-roster invite, instead it appears Nick Punto and/or Alberto Callaspo will serve as depth on the infield in Oakland.
Despite having plenty of middle infielders, the A’s were masters of rotating lineups to fit platoons and Jed Lowrie is coming off his first season of over 97 games played. Stud prospect Addison Russell got into three games at Triple-A in 2013 after spending the majority of the season at High-A and is still about a year from being big league ready. So, who is the guy off in the distance that may get a chance to make his big league debut this year? His name is Jose Martinez, one of the 33 with that name to have played professional baseball according to Baseball Reference, and the one whose story is deserving of being told.
During Spring Training in 2009, when with the St. Louis Cardinals, Martinez received word of tragedy from his native Venezuela. In a home robbery, his grandmother and two uncles had been killed and his father was only able to hold on for a few days, long enough for Martinez to make it home to pay his final respects.
After returning to the states, Martinez looked to find relief on the baseball field, instead he suffered injury after injury that kept him from appearing in a single game in 2009 and only six in 2010. In 2011, Martinez found himself without a team and, for the second time in three years, did not play in a single competitive baseball game.
In 2012, Martinez was signed by former member of the Cardinals front office and recently hired GM of the Houston Astros, Jeff Luhnow. He took full advantage of the opportunity, posting a career high .304 average at Double-A and being named a Texas League All-Star before being promoted to Triple-A. In 2013, Martinez spent the majority of the season at Triple-A and put up good numbers, but again found himself without a team after the season. Martinez went to Venezuela to play winter ball and signed a minor league deal with a big league spring invite with the A’s.
So here he is, back in a big league camp, with a plethora of middle infielders ahead of him on the big league roster but a good showing just might earn himself the chance of realizing his dream of becoming a Major League Baseball player. I don’t know about you but I will be rooting for him.