TONIGHT: Martinez comes 'home' to K.C., but not as a member of Royals


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- After seven years, Chito Martinez is finally ,, coming "home" to the stadium he's never seen.

This isn't quite the way he had it planned back in 1984, when he signed with Kansas City as a sixth-round draft choice. Martinez figured by this time he would be spraying base hits around Royals Stadium as a member of the home team.

Instead, Martinez will make his first appearance in K.C. tonight (8:35, ESPN) when the Orioles open a two-game series against the Royals.

After spending seven seasons in the Kansas City organization, and hitting 57 home runs in the last three years, Martinez decided correctly that he didn't figure in the Royals' plans. When he wasn't promoted to the big-league roster, the lefthanded-hitting outfielder exercised his option to become a minor-league free agent.

"We considered him a Triple A player," was the explanation one K.C. executive gave for Martinez's absence from the major-league roster.

With little more than the promise of an opportunity, Martinez accepted the Orioles' offer of a Triple A contract with the Rochester Red Wings. He earned a promotion to the big leagues by hitting 20 home runs in the first half, a total that still leads the International League, and driving in 50 runs.

So, on his first big-league road trip, Martinez ironically ends up in Kansas City. "This will be the first time I've ever seen the stadium," he said. "It would be nice to drive in a few runs."

Ben McDonald (4-3, 5.43) will face Mark Gubicza (4-5, 5.82) in tonight's game. Bob Milacki (5-3, 4.01) pitches against Bret Saberhagen (6-4, 3.40) tomorrow night.

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