Martin a hot-corner commodity
Emergency situation opens Torre's eyes to catcher's flexibility
DENVER -- Another left-handed Colorado Rockies starting pitcher, another start at third base for Gold Glove catcher Russell Martin.
Dodgers manager Joe Torre said before Saturday night's game that Martin's sudden emergence as a third-base option began out of necessity barely a week ago, when Nomar Garciaparra was injured and emergency dictated late-inning flexibility.
"If it wasn't for that Friday night, for actually having to do it, I'm not sure how comfortable I'd be," Torre said.
And with each test, Torre became more comfortable. He saw Martin flying around the infield during batting practice every day, could hear the enthusiasm in Martin's voice any time they talked about him returning to his original position. Torre trusts third-base coach Larry Bowa, who gave the idea a thumbs-up.
"It was Larry's comfort watching him that sort of helped me, knowing that we would face a couple of left-handers here and the fact that I wanted to give [backup catcher Gary] Bennett some action."
Martin might be the most athletic starting catcher to come along since Houston's Craig Biggio, who soon was moved to second base. Torre said Martin keeps doing things that catch his eye, like during Friday's frigid batting practice, when Martin took ground balls at third base and made the throw across the diamond wearing a neoprene glove on his throwing hand for warmth.
"That was interesting," said Torre.
Martin went out and made four solid defensive plays in the game, one of them saving a pair of runs.
"Guess I passed the test," said Martin.
The genesis of the experiment was the desire by Torre to give Martin a rest from the physical demands of catching without losing his bat from the lineup, the same dilemma that frustrated predecessor Grady Little. Martin said he could have done this last year.
"I didn't feel I was in position to ask anything," he said. "It was a little different situation last year. It's kind of gutsy. But they've seen me take ground balls and stuff. I was happy [Torre] had confidence to put me at third base. I know I can play there. It's natural for me; it's not weird for me there."
Torre was non-committal whether Martin would see regular action at third base when opponents start a left-hander, but said Martin will return behind the plate Sunday (when second baseman Jeff Kent will not start) and stay there through Tuesday, getting Wednesday off completely followed by Thursday's team day off.
As for Martin, any other positions he's got in mind?
"I'd love to be a shortstop," he said.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.