It’s amazing how the fates of major-league baseball players sometimes are intertwined.
For example, the Royals brought up second baseman Whit Merrifield on May 18, 2016, and nearly 15 months later he’s proved to be an integral part of the team.
To make room for Merrifield on their 40-man roster, the Royals designated outfielder Jose Martinez for assignment.
Any team could have contacted the Royals about a trade, but the St. Louis Cardinals made the best offer. Cash. They sent the Royals money for Martinez, who had won the 2015 Pacific Coast League’s batting title with a .384 average in 98 games for Class AAA Omaha.
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Martinez was surprised to be let go, and it’s not hard to see why.
After the Royals won the World Series, they added Martinez to the 40-man roster and he got a chance to play in spring training. He seemed to be a rising prospect. But, when camp broke, the Royals sent him back to Omaha, and weeks later removed him from the 40-man roster.
Those memories apparently are still fresh in Martinez’s mind, as he has proved to be a thorn in the Royals’ side in the annual I-70 Series against the Cardinals as he batted .385 in the first three games between the teams.
“It’s kind of something special because you know what happened,” Martinez said after Wednesday’s game. “I think I’m taking it a little personal and the boys, they know how I’m feeling right now. Like I said, that situation, I’m in a better situation now, and the Cardinals gave me an opportunity and I’m taking advantage of that. So whatever it is, I’m going to try to work harder and harder and get better every day.”
When the Royals parted ways with Martinez, they had a glut of minor-league outfielders, including Brett Eibner, Reymond Fuentes, Jorge Bonifacio and, yep, the versatile Merrifield.
But another reason for the parting of ways was Martinez’s defense didn’t match his bat.
That was on display in the Cardinals’ 8-6 win over the Royals on Thursday when Martinez appeared to misplay a ball hit by Melky Cabrera into a two-run triple. Martinez also was zero for three in the game.
Martinez, 29, made his major-league debut last season, appearing in 12 games, and this year, he’s batted .288. In the first three games against the Royals, Martinez had 5 hits in 13 at-bats with a home run.
The homer came against Scott Alexander, a former teammate in the minors. Martinez was happy about the homer, but also glad that Alexander has made it to the big leagues. Ditto for Bonifacio and Merrifield.
“We were in the minor leagues for a (long) time,” Martinez said. “I’m pretty happy for them, because like I said, you always need opportunity. You always need a chance to prove you can play at this game.”