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At 40, Martinez Remains Double Trouble To Yanks


August 10, 2003
Copyright © 2003 THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved. 

PHOTO: John Dunn for The New York Times

Seattle designated hitter Edgar Martinez, who has a career average of .322 against the Yankees, hit two doubles and scored a run Saturday.

He said the hand speed is not what it was, the eyesight is not as acute, and there is that troubling left hamstring.

"At 25," Edgar Martinez said yesterday, "everything is better."

Perhaps. But few players on the field at Yankee Stadium yesterday were as effective as the 40-year-old Martinez, the Seattle Mariners' longtime designated hitter.

He thrashed a 399-foot double off Andy Pettitte in the second inning, barely making it to second base. To further test his aching hamstring, he advanced to third on a groundout and scored on another.

That 360 feet of hard running gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead in their tightly played 2-1 victory over the Yankees.

For good measure, and to continue his mastery over Pettitte and long domination against the Yankees, Martinez hit another double in the ninth inning.

Those doubles were particularly satisfying for Martinez.

"I've been able to hit a lot of doubles in my career," he said. "This year, I haven't been able to get in the gap."

In his career he has averaged about one double for every 4.3 hits. This season, it has been one in seven.

Still, the Yankees understand that Martinez is one of the most accomplished designated hitters in major league history.

In explaining the Yankees' strategy in pitching to Martinez, catcher John Flaherty said: "The scouting report said try not to show him any patterns and to mix it up. We threw everything but the kitchen sink at him, and he still hit the ball."

Pettitte yielded only five hits as he pitched a complete game. But Martinez's two hits gave him a career batting average of .372 against Pettitte and .322 against the Yankees.

"I feel like for the last few years I've done pretty good against him," Pettitte said of Martinez. "I think most of those horrible numbers are from early in my career. It's fun. I like pitching to him. It's a good battle. You're always looking for him as a player."

Martinez has been a Mariner since 1987, the longest current tenure with one club of any American League player.

If his parents, who lived in the Bronx, had decided not to return to Puerto Rico when he was a year old, he might have grown up near Yankee Stadium. Instead, he plays as if it is his second home. Coming into this season, his career average in the Bronx was .350.

He has an aunt in Queens and another in Passaic, N.J., and cousins all over the New York area.

He has been batting against Pettitte since 1995, and even though he seemingly owns him, he spoke respectfully about his opponent.

"When you face a pitcher like Andy, you have to do a lot of thinking," Martinez said. "I try not to do too much. It's just thinking. He throws five or six different kinds of pitches for strikes. I didn't know what he was going to throw in any of the at-bats."

Pettitte got the count to 2-2 on Martinez in the second.

"First, I was trying to protect the plate," Martinez said. "A short swing. Two strikes, you shorten up." Yet, he belted a down-and-in slider almost 400 feet.

On his next at-bat, he went down swinging against Pettitte, then lined out to third in the sixth. In the ninth, he doubled to right-center and was taken out for a pinch-runner. He has been kept out of action because of trouble with his left hamstring or left quadriceps six times in his career.

"I had a little setback this year with my left hamstring," Martinez said. "I had surgery on it last year. I had problems with it in 1993."

Also, at 40, he said, "You have to make sure your mechanics are good. You prepare in a different way.

"I still have a little left," added Martinez, who is batting .305.

Yankees Manager Joe Torre suggested that Martinez had quite a bit left.

"In old-timers' games they're going to have to be careful," Torre said. "He'll hit line drives. I'm sure on old-timers' day he'll hit a double and they'll have a golf cart to bring him out to second base."

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