Five years ago, Russell Martin was in last days as a minor leaguer in Las Vegas. A few weeks later, a major league career beckoned with the Dodgers.
For three years it was successful, even leading to a few All-Star appearances, but the last two were disappointments due to injuries and declining numbers. That is how Martin ended up in New York as a low-risk and potentially high-reward signing.
“I want to prove to myself that I can do it, obviously,” Martin said. “I’m 28 years old. I don’t really feel old, I don’t really feel beat up. I’ve healed from my injuries. I feel back in shape.”
Martin’s new team is back in shape, too, winning nine of their first 14 games. The catcher has been a huge part of it, hitting .289 with four home runs and 11 RBIs.
Martin also had knee and hip problems a year ago and those issues seemed to distract his focus, which Martin freely admitted.
“I’m just more explosive, stronger, compared to the last couple of years,” Martin said. “I just worked out harder. I feel for me personally, if I work out as hard as I can, it gives me confidence just knowing that I’ve done everything I could to get myself in good playing shape. I think it affects my game.”
Behind the dish, Martin has struck up a natural chemistry with A.J. Burnett. The
right-hander is 3-0, relying on his changeup rather than just firing
fastball after fastball.
“He believes in it, and I’m starting to, more and more,” Burnett said. “It’s going to be a big pitch. I threw a lot of them in fastball counts, and it felt good.”