Long wait finally ends as Martinez earns roster spot with Phillies - pressofAtlanticCity.com: Sports

Long wait finally ends as Martinez earns roster spot with Phillies - pressofAtlanticCity.com: Sports

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Long wait finally ends as Martinez earns roster spot with Phillies

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Posted: Thursday, March 31, 2011 12:20 am | Updated: 1:40 am, Thu Mar 31, 2011.

PHILADELPHIA - After five minor-league seasons and seven minor-league teams, Michael Martinez can finally call himself a Major League player.

The 28-year-old utility player learned Wednesday he will be a member of the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies.

Martinez has no big-league experience. He played in 33 games in Triple-A last season. Manager Charlie Manuel said that Martinez and Wilson Valdez will fill-in for the injured Chase Utley at second base.

Catcher Carlos Ruiz and pitchers Jose Contreras and Danys Baez welcomed Martinez to the team with congratulatory hugs before the the Phillies' final exhibition game against the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park.

"I'm a little bit older," Martinez said. "But I wanted to make my family proud. I know my role as a player and in life. I have no idea why it took so long, but I always knew I would make it to the major leagues."

Martinez made the Phillies as the team finalized its roster and detailed its second-base plans before and after Wednesday's 4-1 loss to the Pirates.

Philadelphia released second baseman Luis Castillo.

In addition to Martinez and Valdez, the Phillies announced their other bench players: outfielders Ross Gload and John Mayberry Jr., utility player Pete Orr and catcher Brian Schneider. The Phillies' bullpen will consist of relievers Contreras, Baez, Ryan Madson, J.C. Romero, Kyle Kendrick, Antonio Bastardo and David Herndon.

The Phillies also put pitchers Brad Lidge (shoulder) and Brian Schlitter (elbow) and shortstop Brian Bocock (broken wrist), Utley (knee) and outfielder Domonic Brown (broken hand) on the disabled list.

The Phillies open the season 1:05 p.m. Friday against the Houston Astros at Citizens Bank.

The question of who would start at second base has been an issue all of spring training.

Utley has yet to appear in a game this year because of a knee injury.

Martinez began his professional career in 2003.

The Phillies selected the Dominican Republic native from the Washington Nationals in December's Rule V free agent draft, which is for players not on a team's 40-man major-league roster and who have four or five years of professional experience.

Martinez batted .233 (17-for-73) in spring training and is a career .263 minor-league hitter.

But despite those statistics he impressed Phillies management, especially with his defense.

"He's talented," Manuel said. "He can run. He can throw. He's acrobatic. I think he won everybody over. He's capable of being a good big-league player."

Martinez appeared to have little shot of making the team when spring training started. Many fans thought Castillo would replace Utley.

The Phillies signed Castillo, who was released by the New York Mets earlier this month, nine days ago. Castillo was 6-for-22 with eight runs scored in seven games for the Phillies.

Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said it was not an easy decision to release the 35-year-old Castillo, who has a .290 career batting average in 15 seasons.

"We wanted to give him an opportunity to be a contributor on our club," Amaro said. "We liked everything about him, but we felt comfortable with the personnel we have here to move forward."

Castillo made his last game in a Phillies uniform a good one. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI, two runs scored and a stolen base in Philadelphia's 8-5 win over Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

"He's in good shape," Manuel said Castillo.

But not good enough to make the Phillies' roster. Manuel likes Wilson and Martinez's versatility. The manger said both players can also play every outfield position in addition to second base and shortstop.

Valdez, 32, probably will start at second base Friday. He earned a spot on the roster when he filled in admirably at shortstop and second base for an injured Jimmy Rollins and Utley last year. Valdez appeared in 111 games and batted .258. He batted .298 (28-for-94) with runners in scoring position last year.

"He's very productive player," Manuel said. "He hits better than people think. He can get big hits for you."

Valdez batted .302 (19-for-63) in spring training.

"I'm happy for the opportunity," Valdez said. "I think I have to do what I did last year or maybe something better."

The Phillies do not know when Utley will return from his injury. Who knows if Martinez will stay with the team once Utley comes back? But Martinez is ready to make the most of his opportunity.

As Rule V draftee, Martinez must be on the 25-man roster for the entire season or be offered back to the Nationals.

"I have to be willing to do whatever needs to be done," he said. "I have to keep plugging away."

Contact Michael McGarry:

609-272-7185

MMcGarry@pressofac.com

The Phillies' 25-man roster:

Starting pitchers - Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton

Bullpen - Jose Contreras, Danys Baez, Ryan Madson, J.C. Romero, Kyle Kendrick, Antonio Bastardo and David Herndon.

Starting position players -Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Ben Francisco, Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez.

Bench - Michael Martinez, Wilson Valdez, Ross Gload, John Mayberry Jr., Pete Orr and Brian Schneider

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