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Martin balks at offer


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from the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

 

Martin balks at offer; Williams gets job

 

By Juan C. Rodriguez

Staff Writer

Posted March 29 2003

 

JUPITER -- After a year hiatus, Al Martin will be back in the big leagues come Opening Day. He just won't be in a Marlins uniform.

 

Martin's stellar spring with the Marlins earned him a spot with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Less than two hours after the Marlins released him in large part because of a contract squabble, Martin signed a new deal.

 

The transaction means Gerald Williams will open the season as the Marlins' fifth outfielder. The Marlins also settled on Tommy Phelps as their second left-handed reliever over Juan Alvarez. Phelps will fill A.J. Burnett's roster spot until Burnett, who will go on the disabled list retroactive to March 21, returns on April 5 and sends Michael Tejera back to the bullpen.

 

Both Williams and Phelps will be added to the 40-man roster following today's exhibition game against Double-A Carolina in Zebulon, N.C.

 

The Marlins wanted Martin, 35, to forego his right to decline a minor league assignment within the first 45 days of the major league season. Players with more than five years of big-league service time have the option of refusing a return to the minors.

 

If Martin, who missed all of 2002 with an elbow injury, would have started the year with the club, the Marlins could not take him off the roster without swallowing his entire base salary. Last month, Martin signed a minor league free agent deal that called for a $325,000 base salary if he made the team.

 

"What we asked Al to consider as part of his contract was standard," Marlins General Manager Admin Beinfest said. "It's something that has been agreed upon by the [Players']union and Major League Baseball. This was nothing out of the norm."

 

It was for Martin, who hit .342 in Grapefruit League play with a .605 slugging percentage. He said the Marlins told him he had a spot on the 25-man roster as long as he signed the waiver.

 

Beinfest denid that claim, saying: "I don't think there were any decisions made. It's a decision that Jeff [Torborg] and I would be a lot more intimate with than Al."

 

The Devil Rays had Martin under contract by noon, about 90 minutes after the Marlins released him. Martin briefly played for Lou Piniella in Seattle in 2000-01 and will get considerably more playing time with Tampa Bay than he would have with the Marlins.

 

Martin was slated mostly for pinch-hitting and pinch-running duties. A left-handed hitter, he'll serve as Piniella's primary designated hitter against right-handers and may see time in right field. He signed a one-year deal for the $300,000 major league minimum plus $100,000 in incentives.

 

Friday morning, Martin termed the decision not to sign the waiver "career-threatening." He also said the Marlins made him aware of it "three or four days ago." That could have provided him sufficient time to gauge whether other, more attractive situations might be available. Martin denied having any prospects.

 

"It's not like I'm saying, `I don't want to be a Marlin. I want to go somewhere else,''' he said. "That's not the case. The case is, I don't like the policy and I'm not comfortable with it.

 

"I don't feel like I can play the way I'm capable of playing if I'm worried and have something hanging over my head like that. Many people will say it's stupid, but that's the way I feel. I don't think I can focus on getting a hit in the ninth inning to win a game if I'm worried about, `If I don't, this might be it.'''

 

Martin looked like the best fit for a few reasons. He had a better spring statistically than Williams (.286 batting average, .309 slugging) and impressed Torborg with his speed and defense. Martin also would have provided more balance off the bench. Andy Fox and switch-hitter Brian Banks are the only two lefty reserves compared with four right-handers (Mike Redmond, Ramon Castro, Mike Mordecai, Williams).

 

"If we had not had Gerald in mind, we would have told him a week and a half ago out of respect so he could catch on with someone else," Torborg said.

 

Added Martin: "I said, `I understand it. I respect what you guys are doing and hopefully you respect what I'm doing.'''

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Tommoy is going to be a starter until Burnett is back ?

please read

Phelps will fill A.J. Burnett's roster spot until Burnett, who will go on the disabled list retroactive to March 21, returns on April 5 and sends Michael Tejera back to the bullpen.

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