VIERA, Fla. -- The rookies and the unaccomplished always have made the longer trips in Spring Training. And with the Dodgers having abandoned Vero Beach, Fla., the Mets have few trips shorter than an hour. So it came as no surprise that Fernando Martinez was a passenger on one of the two Mets busses that traveled the 69 miles -- exit to exit -- up I-95 on Saturday.
The return trip was more comfy for Martinez. He was a passenger in the Angel Pagan Car Service, permitted to depart Space Coast Stadium well before the Mets had steamrolled the Nationals, 14-6, but not until he did some of the heavy lifting in his team's second lopsided victory in three days. Before he was chauffeured away, Martinez had hit -- no, launched -- two home runs and singled twice in four at-bats. He had produced the kind of performance that the Mets have been waiting two springs to see.
It wasn't that long ago that COO Jeff Wilpon's prescience predicted a Mets outfield of Martinez, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Gomez for 2009. But combined, those three outfielders played 110 games for the Mets last season. (Gomez, of course, was a member of the Twins last season.) And Martinez, responsible for merely 29 of those appearances, is far from the established young player Wilpon had envisioned.
No one will say Martinez has been a disappointment, because his 22nd birthday still is months away. Nor will anyone admit to be overwhelmed by the left-handed-hitting left fielder. But now, Martinez has demonstrated the level of power the Mets anticipated when they signed him in 2005.
"It's good to see," manager Jerry Manuel said on behalf of the departed. "He hasn't shown us that kind of power display, not that I recall. And he did it against offspeed pitches. That's a good sign. I hadn't seen him handle that kind of pitch. That shows he's growing, maturing as a hitter."
But he'll still set to make the longer trips, if not all of them. Home runs in March won't free him.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.