Martinez struggles to get back in swing

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Orioles right fielder Chito Martinez should be enjoying his first spring as an established major-league player, but it isn't working out that way.

He came into training camp with a place on the 25-man roster locked up, but a bum shoulder and a lingering offensive slump have left him worried about his place on the team.


"Other guys tell me that I have a job all wrapped up," he said, "but they aren't swinging my bat. I spent a lot of time in the minor leagues. I've only got a half-season in the majors. There has been a little doubt on my part."

He certainly has not gotten comfortable at the plate, where he is hitless in his past 19 at-bats and has not swung the bat with authority since he jammed his shoulder attempting a diving catch during the first week of the exhibition season.


Martinez went hitless in five at-bats in yesterday's 12-inning, 1-1 tie with the Boston Red Sox, dropping his exhibition average to .171. His place on the roster still does not appear to be in danger, but he has to wonder what it will take to get on track.

He is not alone.

"He looks like he did last spring," manager John Oates said, "and I didn't get a very favorable impression. "I remember telling [Greg] Biagini that I didn't think he would help them [the Rochester Red Wings]."

Oates, of course, was wrong. Martinez went to Rochester and was leading the International League with 20 home runs when the Orioles called him up. He hit 11 home runs in 67 major-league games to finish the season as one of the club's outfield regulars.

He got off to a quick start during the exhibition season, with athree-hit performance in the Orioles' second game, but cooled off considerably after he jammed his shoulder.

"I'm not blaming the injury, because if you can't play with a little pain, you shouldn't be playing here," Martinez said, "but my timing has been off ever since. I don't think that's the problem anyway. I think it has become a mental thing."

The injury was diagnosed at the time as a bruised rotator cuff. Martinez took treatment for a few days and returned to the lineup. He has not been to the training room in 10 days, but he says the soreness has not entirely subsided.

"It's the kind of thing that might bother me all year," he said, "but I'm not going to sit down just because of a little pain. If everybody sat down every time something hurt a little bit, there wouldn't be a guy in here [the clubhouse] still playing."