Tobacco-free Martin rejoins Dodgers
Catcher wearing mouthpiece to relax jaw, prevent habit's return
PHOENIX -- Russell Martin isn't champing at the bit. He's champing at his new mouthpiece.
With the circus surrounding Manny Ramirez's scheduled -- but scratched -- first game, Martin flew back from his World Baseball Classic engagement for Team Canada under the radar and jumped right back into the lineup for Thursday's exhibition against Team Korea.
Martin went 0-for-2 and scored a run in the game, his first with the specially fitted mouthpiece he hopes will serve a dual purpose -- to help him quit using smokeless tobacco and to relax his jaw.
"I quit dipping [smokeless tobacco] over the winter and I wanted to have something in my mouth and not gum," said the two-time All-Star. "I did it last year, but during the season having everybody around you dipping makes it hard. I know it's hard to stop once the season starts. You can't dip with this in your mouth."
Martin then displayed the clear custom mouthpiece.
"It's supposed to keep your jaw relaxed," he said. "It keeps your jaw in the sweet spot. It takes two hours to get fitted for this. Yesterday was the first day I used it and it felt kind of weird. They say it takes a week to get used to it."
Ramirez also wears a mouthpiece when he plays, but Martin said he hadn't discussed it with him.
"The trainer says when you wear it at night, it relaxes the jaw," Martin said. "People use these when they get migraine headaches and neckaches. I'm going to find out."
Martin said he enjoyed his time in the Classic, even though Team Canada was immediately eliminated with two losses.
"It was awesome," he said. "The intensity, it felt like a playoff game when we played the U.S. You could feel the energy from the fans. It was a good experience. I'm disappointed that's as far as we could go. We fell short, but the competition was good."
Martin -- who went 2-for-9 with a homer and double in the tournament -- said he's probably better prepared for the regular season because of the Classic than if he had stayed in Dodgers camp.
"You're in the mind-set of playing a real game, and that's better than Spring Training," he said. "It's just easier to get yourself in the right frame of mind to play."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.