The struggling Jose Martinez is heading to South Bend, looking to quickly turn around what has been a disappointing season thus far for the Cubs.
The Chicago Cubs optioned designated hitter Jose Martinez to their alternate training site in South Bend on Monday, following the addition of outfielder Billy Hamilton. The slumping Martinez is still looking for his first hit as a Cub since being acquired just before the trade deadline on Aug. 30.
Since putting on the pinstripes, Martinez is 0-for-14 with one walk and three strikeouts in six games played. The veteran struggled with the Rays earlier this season before being traded, sporting a slash line of .239/.329/.388 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 76 plate appearances.
As of Thursday, the first-place Cubs (25-19) and are 2 1/2 games ahead of the Cardinals with just 16 games remaining. Rather than hoping for Martinez to quickly find his swing in a short span of time, manager David Ross would instead him figure out his struggles while getting regular playing time.
“In this weird season, it’s hard to give somebody consistent at-bats when they feel off, and their timing’s off,” Ross said before last night’s opener against the Reds. “So we’re just allowing him to go down there, get regular at-bats, get his timing back and come back and be that guy that we need.”
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This is similar to the Albert Almora situation which is currently in South Bend looking to work his way back to the big league level like Martinez will need to do.
Since Sunday night’s game against the Cardinals, the team has been without Jason Heyward, who was feeling lightheaded and had difficulties breathing. There is no timetable for his return, so in the meantime, Ross will be rotating an outfield of Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, Cameron Maybin, and Billy Hamilton.
Heyward has been one of the best bats in a slumping Cubs’ offense this season (.300/.415/.540 5 HR 17 RBI), so the hope is he can return soon, but in a worst-case scenario where he misses extended time, Almora or Martinez will likely be called back up.
Before this season, Martinez quickly became a Cub-menace during his four years with the Cardinals, where he averaged a solid .298 at the plate. Martinez has also been known to destroy left-handed pitching in his career (.313/.387/.543 with .930 OPS), which is another reason why he was added to a struggling Cubs offense.
Here’s a not-so-fun fact: If the Cubs never bring up Martinez again, he will have the third most plate appearances (15) without a hit by a position player in franchise history. The other two on that list are fan favorites George Moriarty (20 PA from 1903-04) and Clem Clemens (16 PA in 1916).
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I will be rooting for Martinez to make it back and help this team make a deep postseason-run as all Cubs fans should. He brings excitement and energy to the team, and when he is playing well, this is contagious. A career .538 hitter in the postseason, he is a bat teams want stashed on their bench in October.
Still, with this shortened season quickly coming to an end, there is not much time for Martinez to figure himself out. Until then, the Cubs will need to continue finding ways to get the job done.