Near the end of a 22-minute conference call, new Yankees catcher Russell Martin used four words to sum up everything about his signing.
“Talent doesn’t go away,” he said. “I know that I can hit. I just want to get back to that consistency.”
The Yankees are counting on the talent, and truth be told, so is Martin.
Two seasons of disappointment, Martin said, were the result of trying to move beyond the things made him so good in the first place. He changed his offseason workouts, focusing on speed, agility and flexibility in an effort to become more athletic. It cost him some of his strength, and when Martin tried to make up for it with a bigger swing, he got completely out of whack.
“I think I got almost in my own way,” he said. “This year I’ve made sure to just come back to the roots and what got me to where I wanted to be those two all-star seasons.”
The injured hip is fine. Martin said he hasn’t felt any discomfort in “at least a month. He has full range of motion, and he was pushing it “pretty hard” in offseason workouts before the Yankees physical found the torn meniscus in his right knee. Now he’ll shut it down again to have the minor surgery. If nothing else, Martin said, the knee injury has forced him to give the hip a little extra rest.
“Now it’s going to be ready for sure,” he said. “There’s absolutely no problem with it.”
Martin signed with the understanding that he’ll be taking over as the everyday starter, and Brian Cashman said as much this morning. That said, Martin is not oblivious to his less-than-inspiring numbers the past two years.
“I feel like I have to earn that (starting job),” he said. “I don’t feel like there’s anything that’s owed to me, especially the way the past two years have gone for me.”
• This is the first time Martin has experienced any sort of problem with his knee. “I’m not too concerned with it,” he said.
• During his time in Los Angeles, Martin started at least 133 games at catcher three straight seasons. For comparison, Jorge Posada started that many games behind the plate once in his career. Martin said he has no number in mind of how many games he wants to catch next season. “Right now I feel fine,” he said. “But I don’t know if catching 10 or 12 games in a row, if I’m going to feel anything. I don’t feel anything right now, so I can’t tell you. I think I’ll have a better idea when I start catching and squatting in spring training.”
• As recently as 2008, Martin played 71 innings at third base. It was his primary position his first pro season. “I feel like I can play anywhere on the field,” he said. “I love catching. I love it, but if the team needs me to help out or do some other things, I’m willing to do it.”
• The past two years, Martin said, were not a complete waste: “Defensively I feel like I’ve been getting better every year. I’m learning (with) more and more experience, understanding pitchers better, understanding hitters better. In that regard I feel like I’ve advanced. Not that it gets overlooked, but to me that’s the most important job that I have is to get everything out of my pitchers.”
• Thoughts on replacing an iconic player like Jorge Posada? “The first thing I thought of was, I’m glad Posada’s there because he’s caught those guys for a while now. He’s obviously going to have a big hand in helping me learn the pitchers and what they’re all about. Their pitches. Their makeup. Things of that nature.”
• Martin said about 20 times that he just wants to be with a team that wins. He also said the Yankees went after him pretty hard, which was part of the reason he chose New York over Boston and Toronto. “All of those places are close to home, but I think the Yanks are the ones that pushed the hardest and that’s what made my decision a little easier,” he said.
• Joe Girardi on who will backup Martin: “There’s no lock on who our second catcher’s going to be. Obviously, Cervi’s got a leg up on that because he’s played at a high level for us. But these kids (Jesus Montero and Austin Romine) are going to have a chance to see what they can do.”
• Would Girardi consider playing Martin at third? “He’s a guy that, occasionally when we needed to spell Alex, he’s a guy we could possibly put there. That’s what he came up as… He has that kind of athleticism.”
• Martin on Joe Torre: “He always had good things to say about the Yankees. I haven’t talked to him (since signing), but every time he talked about the Yankees, you could feel that in his heart that he meant what he was saying, and he just said good things.”
Associated Press photos. The second photo is from the play that injured Martin’s hip.