Too much self-applied pressure can be crippling in any profession. In the case of Julio Pablo Martinez, it hindered him significantly in his first stint playing affiliated ball in the United States.
But there's nothing like a string of stellar performances to take that weight off your shoulders.
The Rangers' third-ranked prospect homered in his third straight game Friday, going 2-for-4 in Class A Short Season Spokane's 5-3 win over Salem-Keizer at Volcanoes Stadium.
Gameday box score
"He's kind of settling in," Indians hitting coach Jared Goedert said. "I think there's a comfort factor you're starting to see a little bit, being here, being with his teammates. His personality is coming out a little bit more, which is great to see. He's trusting his abilities and he's starting to let those take over.
"He's like all of us in that he's human and he probably wanted to make a great impression and baseball has a way of ... the harder you try, sometimes the results won't be what you want. So I think there was a little bit of that early on. He's strung together a couple of good games here recently, and you can see just his shoulders relax a little bit. He's just playing the game ... and [letting] it dictate the at-bats he's going to have. ... I think the longer he's been here, the more he's realized, 'It's still baseball. It's the game I know. It's the game I'm really good at.' And you can see him do that and it's great to see."
The 22-year-old from Cuba reached on a bunt single against Jake Wong in the first inning. Facing Keaton Winn in the second, he walloped a 1-0 pitch over the fence in right field for a two-run homer.
"I think tonight really exemplified what type of player he is with his abilities," Goedert said. "To be able to lay down a base-hit bunt his first at-bat and then hit a two-run homer his second, you get that rare combination of power and speed."
Martinez also has logged three straight games with two hits and, after batting .188 from his June 15 Northwest League debut through June 30, he's raised his average to .245 with six long balls through 27 games. The left-handed hitter spent the first seven games of the season in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, hitting .409/.606/1.288 with a homer, a triple, a double and nine walks.
"He's got a pretty simple swing overall, but with it he generates a lot of bat speed and when he gets a hold of it, it goes a long way," Goedert said. "What we've seen lately, though, is that he can really drive the ball gap-to-gap. Our last game in Everett, the second pitch of the game he homered to right field and his last at-bat in the game he tripled off the left-center field wall."
He's also stolen nine bases across the two levels, and speed is the 5-foot-11 center fielder's most eye-popping tool -- MLB Pipeline rates his wheels a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale. After defecting from Cuba in 2017, Martinez signed for a reported $2.8 million in March.
Diosbel Arias went 3-for-5 with an RBI and Curtis Terry chipped in two hits for the Indians.
Seth Nordlin (1-1) allowed three runs on five hits and struck out four over a career-high eight innings en route to the win.
Aaron Bond hit a two-run homer for Salem-Keizer.