Martin may get cameos at third base
Catcher effectively becomes third option at hot corner for LA
LOS ANGELES -- Russell Martin may not have seen the last of playing third base this season. It doesn't mean a position change for Gold Glove catcher, but his cameo at third Friday night might not be the last time that the former Minor League infielder finds his way back into the Dodger infield.
"There may be a game when we may give Russell a day off and that day off may be at third base," manager Joe Torre said. "The thing about catching is not only the physical, it's the mental [aspects] if you do your job right. You get mentally worn out behind the plate when you're trying to help that pitcher through the game."
Torre thinks third base might be an ideal spot for Martin to occasionally play when he doesn't catch. Torre wants Martin fresh in August and September and future third base cameos might help facilitate that goal.
Many baseball people say that Martin's bat plays at the corner position with more power than any other third base candidate the Dodgers have played there this year. His arm strength, release, athleticism and infield experience all parlay nicely to third.
Torre, a former catcher himself, said that when he played first base instead of catching, it seemed like a vacation to him. He also played third base later in his career.
"Playing first base [was] like a day off because you're looking around for your responsibility, but it's all about catching the ball and hitting," Torre said. "It was a day off for me when I did that."
And he's kept an eye on Martin's pregame routine.
"He's taken ground balls," Torre said. "If you watch him during batting practice he'll be at shortstop and third base. He'll move all over the place. He can play infield. Plus, he's taken so many balls over there that he'd be comfortable."
Torre said that his first option at third past Blake DeWitt right now -- with Nomar Garciaparra on the disabled list for the second time this season, this time with an injured left calf -- would be rookie Chin-lung Hu.
"The first option would probably be Hu, but again, if I started a game and you say you want to [sit] DeWitt against a tough left-hander or something like that, you may have to," Torre said. "Or if it's a Sunday when [Jeff] Kent's not playing. You may wind up with that offense in there."
Martin entered Sunday's game on his first significant offensive streak of the 2008 season. He had reached base in 20 of his last 29 plate appearances. During that span, Martin is hitting .558 (10-for-18) with nine walks and a sacrifice fly. In his first at-bat on Sunday, he worked a walk out of Colorado left-hander Jeff Francis to extend that streak to reaching base in 21 of his last 30.
"When you're catching, it's not just physical, the mental part of the game is huge," Martin said. "You're always involved. So to get a mental breather by playing third base, for me, I like it. I played third my whole life before I got converted in 2002. That was my main position. I'm comfortable there. I take ground balls at short everyday. You don't lose that defense. It's like riding a bicycle."
John Klima is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.