Back home in Nicaragua, Dennis Martinez is a legend, a national hero who pitched 23 seasons in the major leagues, made four All-Star teams and became the first Latin American-born pitcher to throw a perfect game.
Back home, he is a humanitarian and coach and pioneer, known to a country by one nickname: “El Presidente”.
But as Martinez, 61, stood along a dugout railing here at Marlins Park on Tuesday afternoon, he could not stop talking about Royals third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert, the latest Nicaraguan to make an impact in the Major Leagues.
“Dennis Martinez is over,” Martinez said, smiling and looking toward Cuthbert. “He’s the main man now to us — to all Nicaragua.”
The pronouncement perhaps included a measure of hyperbole. Martinez, a right-handed pitcher who spent most of his career with Baltimore and Montreal, was the first Nicaraguan to play in the major leagues and remains the standard bearer. Cuthbert is a 23-year-old who, entering Thursday’s play, was batting .284 in 113 career games. But moments after Martinez began lavishing praise, Cuthbert hopped over from batting practice post and wrapped Martinez in a huge bear hug.
“This is the man,” Martinez said again.
The relationship between Martinez and Cuthbert, in fact, dates back four years, when Martinez managed Nicaragua during a World Baseball Classic Qualifying tournament. Cuthbert was a 19-year-old third baseman playing against grown men. Martinez noticed his talent right away.
“I saw him playing third base, and he hit the first home run there,” Martinez said. “So when I saw that, I said: ‘Oh, this is something special. This kid is going to be something.’”
In all, just 13 Nicaraguans have appeared in the major leagues since Martinez debuted on Sept. 14, 1976. And Martinez is hopeful that Cuthbert can stake his name as one of the best.
“You see his routine, the way he prepares himself,” Martinez said. “He just needs to stay healthy and get the opportunity. He’s got the talent.”
Closer Wade Davis expected to throw “a couple more” rehab outings
Royals manager Ned Yost said closer Wade Davis “felt good” after beginning a rehab assignment in Surprise, Ariz., on Wednesday night. Davis threw one scoreless inning for the Rookie-league Arizona Royals, allowing one hit and striking out one batter in the process. According to Yost, Davis got his pitch count up to around 20 pitches.
On Thursday, Yost said Davis was slated to make “a couple more” rehab appearances — either in Arizona or at another minor-league affiliate — before returning to the Royals.