When he suits up for Canada this spring in the World Baseball Classic, newly signed Pirates catcher Russell Martin hopes to get a lot of playing time — at shortstop. “If I’m allowed to and it makes the Canadian team better, I do see why it would be a problem,” Martin said today after signing his $17 million deal with the Pirates. “If I do get the opportunity, I can’t wait to show everybody how (well) I can play short.” Hmmm … maybe there’s a position change in his future? Martin laughed. “I still like quarterbacking behind the plate. That’s a fun part of baseball. But, who knows?”
GM Neal Huntington can’t really block Martin from playing, but he didn’t sound thrilled about it: “Anytime a player goes to the World Baseball Classic, there are risks. But it’s awfully tough to take a player away from an opportunity to play for his country.” Beyond the possibility of injury, Martin will miss out on time he could be spending learning the Pirates pitching staff. “Russ is a very smart man,” Huntington said. “He’s been around a long time, so he’s had to learn a number of different pitchers in spring training, with different organizations, with in-season transactions. We’re going to help him in that transition process and we believe we can make it work.”
»»» Martin was behind the plate for most of A.J. Burnett’s starts with the Yankees in 2011, so he’s already familiar with the right-hander. “I must have caught almost every start he threw,” Martin said. “I love working with A.J. He got a bad rap in New York; people liked to pick on him because they knew they were going to get a response. He’s fiery, he has a lot of heart and I feel like he found himself back last year. He competes out there and he really cares, and that falls in with how I play the game, so we mix well together.” Martin said Burnett’s presence here was one influential reason to sign with the Pirates. Burnett sent Martin a few text messages during Martin’s negotiations with the Pirates. “I didn’t have a chance to actually converse with him,” Martin said, adding that he planned to call Burnett while riding back to Pittsburgh International Airport.
»»» Obviously, Martin is less familiar with the other guys on the Pirates’ pitching staff. “I don’t know all the guys from top to bottom. The core — A.J., Wandy, J-Mac — all those guys, I’ve known and I’ve seen. But there’s a lot of guys I’m going to have to watch video on to get a better understanding of them. But my feeling is, there’s some talent here. I’m sure that, from an outside perspective, the baseball world probably doesn’t see us compete on a level that I believe we can.”
»»» Rod Barajas replaced Martin when Martin left the Dodgers. Now, Martin is taking over for Barajas with the Pirates. “It’s a bit funny and it is kind of ironic,” Martin said. “Barajas is great guy, a great teammate. Hopefully, I can fill his shoes here.”
»»» Martin also is a big fan of manager Clint Hurdle. “He’s a stand-up, hard-nosed individual. I’ve always respected Clint. His teams play hard, they do the little things the right way. He’s a guy who’ll have your back, so he’s a guy you want to fight for. I trust him.”