KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- One year after beginning the season as the Astros' starting left fielder, J.D. Martinez was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City on Sunday when it became apparent to the team he wasn't going to beat out Fernando Martinez, Rick Ankiel or Brandon Barnes.
Martinez hit .298 with one homer and four RBIs this spring, but the club has settled on Chris Carter starting in left field and Justin Maxwell in center, and is leaning toward Ankiel in right. The Astros would rather see Martinez play every day than come off the bench, and he'll get that chance in Oklahoma City.
"We see J.D. as an everyday outfielder, and when you switch to the American League, it's hard to get our fourth or fifth outfielders a lot of playing time because the fact you're not doing as many double switches," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "He's going to play a lot, and right now we couldn't guarantee him that amount of playing time at the big league level given that we're going to the American League and given that Fernando Martinez and Brandon Barnes and Maxwell and Ankiel have all played very, very well."
Martinez, 25, burst onto the scene midway through the 2011 season, getting promoted from Double-A and taking over Hunter Pence's slot in the lineup when he was traded to Philadelphia. He hit .241 with 11 homers and a team-leading 55 RBIs last year in Houston and also played 23 games at Oklahoma City -- his only Triple-A experience.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.