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Orioles' Rule 5 shortstop Richie Martin continues to make a case for himself

PORT CHARLOTTE, FLA. — Rule 5 draftee Richie Martin already figured to have a very good chance to make the Orioles’ major league roster out of spring training, but he appears to be leaving nothing to chance.

He went 2-for-3 on Wednesday to raise his Grapefruit League batting average to .450 and continues to get rave reviews from manager Brandon Hyde for both his offense and defense.

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Still, halfway into spring training, he isn’t assuming anything about where he might end up at the end of spring training.

Each of the Orioles’ three starting outfielders provided big swings in a 9-6 win over the Rays, with home runs by Anthony Santander and Cedric Mullins in the fifth inning setting the stage for a three-run double by Yusniel Diaz in the eighth.

“I’m just going out and playing ball, doing what I can control,’’ he said. “At this point, it’s their decision so all I can do is go out and play baseball.”

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This is the Martin’s third major league spring training camp. He came over from the Oakland Athletics as the first overall pick in December’s Rule 5 draft, which means that he has to make the Opening Day roster (or be put on the injured list) or the O’s have to offer him back to the A’s and pass him through waivers before they can send him to the minor leagues.

That doesn’t appear very likely at the moment, even though the Orioles signed veteran Alcides Escobar to compete at shortstop and have a lot of middle infielders in camp.

“I just like the way he makes the routine play,” Hyde said earlier this week. “And, at times, he’ll make the really good play. He’s a real accurate thrower. He’s just really shown that he’s a real sound defender so far in camp. We’ve talked a lot about the importance of defense and how we are going to prioritize defense, and Richie is doing everything that we’ve asked from a defensive standpoint.”

He has been very impressive at the plate, too, but Martin said that he put a huge emphasis on defense during his offseason workouts.

“I made it a focus a couple years back that I want to be a staple on defense and be solid on defense and take pride in making the routine play. That just comes with repetition in the offseason and before games.

“My opinion on defense is that you can only get better by doing it over and over and over. It’s not just going to pop up and you’re going to be a good defender. You’ve got to take those fungoes and take balls live off the bat and get different reads and different positions and that’s the only way you’re going to get better.”

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