Ketel Marte set for first full season as Mariners shortstop
PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Last spring, Ketel Marte wasn't close to making Seattle's opening day roster, optioned to Triple-A Tacoma just a few weeks into spring training.
A year and a lengthy major league stint later, Marte is set to begin the season as the starting shortstop for the Mariners. He's already in the lineup with many other regulars for the exhibition opener Wednesday.
The 22-year-old Marte made his big league debut last July 31 after appearing in the MLB Futures Game for the World team and making the Pacific Coast League All-Star team. He finished the season with a .283 batting average in 57 games, and 19 of his 62 hits went for extra bases. He also played exclusively at shortstop from Aug. 15 to season's end.
''The only thing I have to do is keep working hard like how I did to get here in past years. I just have to be consistent, humble and hope everything goes well,'' Marte said in Spanish. ''I learned to play in the minors. I learned that I can't control the game, that if I carry humility with me day after day with how I work the success will come.''
There's a confidence with Marte, too. He said he wasn't surprised he made the majors at a young age.
''I worked for this. Things were going great last season,'' Marte said. ''If you work hard for something you hope for days like this. You have to have fun and not be stressed. Everyone wants to have a good experience so you have to make it fun.''
Marte also learned a great deal last season from teammate and second baseman Robinson Cano, also from the Dominican Republic. That relationship and work together has carried over into this spring on the back fields of the team complex.
Marte said every Dominican player who signs with the Mariners wants to be part of an infield combination with Cano, a hero in his native land.
''He's shown me how to play at the highest level. Robbie Cano has helped me a lot and I'm really grateful for that,'' Marte said. ''It's been fun for me and a great experience.''
Other Mariners veterans have helped Marte become a major leaguer.
''Above all, you have to learn from veteran players like Felix (Hernandez) and Nelson Cruz who are Latinos and are always trying to help,'' Marte said. ''What I've learned is how to control the game. Here you have to play controlled and take things smoothly.''
Marte's offensive production has always been solid, with a .290 career minor-league batting average. He's focused on his defense in spring training as he looks to hold onto his job in the big leagues.
''I have to try to improve that every day. Everybody knows I can hit,'' Marte said. ''I didn't have much problem hitting at Triple-A, but I can get better.''
Cano said the second year is always tough for a young player because pitchers are now more familiar with Marte.
''He listens, and we've got a bunch of guys here . he can get any kind of advice from guys who played this game seven, eight, nine years.'' Cano said.
The Mariners' decision-makers, too, seem more focused on how Marte will field his position.
''He's got a chance to be an outstanding, dynamic player in this league. But a lot times you see it, players come up, they have that burst, they get off to a good start and then they take a tick backwards,'' manager Scott Servais said. ''He's going to be really important to us on the defensive side as much as anything else. Offense comes and goes. He's going to hit his hot streaks and cold streaks. But making the plays he's supposed to make in the middle of our field is going to determine how his season is going.''
NOTES: The Mariners open spring training play against the San Diego Padres, their baseball complex neighbors. LHP James Paxton gets the start and is scheduled to go two innings or 35-40 pitches. ... OF-DH Cruz didn't take part in Tuesday's team workout and will be held out Wednesday due to mild knee soreness. Servais said it isn't an issue. ... LHP Mike Montgomery will miss a few days after having a cyst removed from his neck via surgery this week. ... New Mariners Norichika Aoki (LF), Adam Lind (1B), Chris Iannetta (C) and Leonys Martin (CF) are in Wednesday's lineup for their first games with the club.