ST. PETERSBURG -- Rangers amateur scout Jay Heafner was at Tropicana Field on Saturday night to watch the Major League debut of pitcher Nick Martinez. Heafner now works in southern Texas, but was a scout in the northeast three years ago when Martinez was at Fordham University.
Martinez was primarily an infielder who was also used as a reliever. But Heafner saw enough of him as a pitcher to believe that's the direction Martinez should take professionally.
"Just the way the ball came out of his hand, the way his delivery worked and his presence," Heafner said. "He didn't look like a infielder trying to pitch. He looked like a pitcher. It was worth taking a chance."
He also had to convince Martinez that pitching was the way to go.
"It's not that he didn't like it," Heafner said. "With his confidence and his chip on the shoulder, he thought he could still hit and wanted to hit. We had a good conversation. I explained it to him and he bought into it."
The Rangers took Martinez in the 18th round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. He is the first player from Fordham to play in the Majors since pitcher Pete Harnisch in 2001. He is also the first Rangers player from Fordham.
Bobby Crook, now a scout but formerly manager of amateur scouting, was also instrumental in signing Martinez.
Hobbled Saunders confident in making next start
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rangers pitcher Joe Saunders was still hobbling a little bit on Saturday, one day after getting hit in the left ankle by a line drive. But Saunders was able to play catch on the field and is still hopeful he can make his next start.
"It's a little swollen," Saunders said. "Not a lot, but a little bit. We've got some color in there. I think it's just bruised. It's not great, but it's OK."
Saunders' next start would be Friday against the Astros in Arlington. That's also one day after the Rangers have to make a decision whether to add pitcher Colby Lewis to the active roster. Lewis is scheduled to pitch on Sunday for Triple-A Round Rock against Oklahoma City. Lewis can take his free agency if not on the active roster by April 10.
"We'll see how he does tomorrow," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Let him pitch his game and then make a decision. Right now, I'm thinking how to get [Saturday starter] Nick Martinez through his game. I can't give you an answer because it's not something I have been thinking about."
Martinez started on Saturday, and the Rangers are activating Yu Darvish off the disabled list to pitch on Sunday. Tanner Scheppers, Martin Perez and Robbie Ross Jr are scheduled to start in the three-game series against the Red Sox, and the Rangers are off on Thursday. That gives Saunders two extra days to recover from getting hit by Evan Longoria's fourth-inning line drive on Friday.
"I'll be ready to pitch on Wednesday on my normal four days' rest," Saunders said.
Aggressive baserunning reinforced with early drills
ST. PETERSBURG -- Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo was one of four players who were out early with third-base coach Gary Pettis to work on their baserunning on Saturday. The others were Leonys Martin, Michael Choice and Jim Adduci.
Pettis is the Rangers' baserunning instructor, and manager Ron Washington wanted all four to get a reminder about the need for aggressive baserunning. Washington wanted Choo in particular to understand that the Rangers are known for their aggressive baserunning. Washington said there were a few times in the first four games Choo missed some opportunities to take an extra base.
"We've just got to keep pounding it into them, we're not worried about them getting picked off or thrown out," Washington said. "We want them to be aggressive. I don't want them playing scared baseball. We don't play scared."
Martin had the Rangers' only stolen base through the first four games. Choo has 96 stolen bases over the last five years, including 20 with the Reds last season. Choice has average speed and never had more than nine steals in the Minors. But Washington said Choice could steal 10-15 in the Majors once he learns to get good leads and read pitchers.
Choice starts in right field against Price; Rios at DH
ST. PETERSBURG -- Michael Choice was in the starting lineup for the first time this season on Saturday, playing right field. Manager Ron Washington wanted his right-handed bat in the lineup against left-hander David Price, and used the opportunity to use Alex Rios at designated hitter.
Choice is in his first full season in the Major Leagues, and Washington is often reluctant to use young players at designated hitter. But he may do so with Choice to get him in the lineup as much as possible.
"I don't think he will do a lot of DH-ing, but he will do some," Washington said.
Josh Wilson started at second base on Saturday as Washington continues to alternate him and Donnie Murphy. Washington is trying to keep both engaged and said at some point, he may start alternating them two games at a time rather than one.
Robinson Chirinos got his second start at catcher on Saturday. Washington said J.P. Arencibia will likely be behind the plate on Sunday with Yu Darvish on the mound.
• Infielder Jurickson Profar is on the disabled list with a torn muscle in his right shoulder and will be sidelined until sometime in June. But he is traveling with the Rangers because he can still do some limited defensive work. He is not able to throw or swing a bat.
• The Rangers optioned by Daniel McCutchen to Double-A Frisco to make room for Martinez on the active roster. McCutchen worked 2 1/3 innings on Friday night, his only appearance for the Rangers since being called up on Tuesday.
• Catcher Chris Gimenez has taken his free agency rather than accept outright assignment to Triple-A Round Rock. Accepting the assignment would have given the Express four catchers on their roster, including Chris Snyder, Brett Nicholas and Jose Felix.
• Pitcher Cody Buckel, who missed almost all of last season while dealing with control issues, made his first start for Class A Myrtle Beach on Friday, and pitched four scoreless innings. He walked four, including the first two batters he faced, but allowed just one single and struck out two.
• Nick Tepesch threw six scoreless innings in his first start for Round Rock on Friday, and Luke Jackson threw five scoreless for Frisco.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.