According to the numbers, this was an awful day for Russell Martin. The new Yankees catcher allowed three stolen bases, he let a third strike get past him, he threw a ball into the outfield, and he was charged with a passed ball. Bad day, right?
“I actually thought he did a pretty good job,” Joe Girardi said. “He must have blocked 48 out of 49 balls.”
A.J. Burnett said the same thing. Burnett was actually impressed with his new catcher this afternoon. Burnett said the stolen bases were because he was slower to the plate than usual (Girardi confirmed this), and Burnett also had his curveball going this afternoon, which meant a lot of balls in the dirt. One of them got past Martin — that was the strike three that turned into a run — and the other pitch to the backstop was a fastball that Martin tried to frame to steal a strike. Martin said he tried to get “a little bit too cute” and let the pitch glance off his glove. Burnett joked with him that it didn’t matter because everyone in the stadium would assume it was Burnett’s fault.
“He’s done good,” Burnett said. “He’s learned what I like to do, what I want to do and he puts that four-finger pitch (the changeup) down. That’s going to help me out this year. He’s doing well.”
Martin seems to be building a strong reputation with the Yankees pitching staff. Today he told Girardi that he wants to catch Freddy Garcia and CC Sabathia this weekend, just to get a little more time with them. He also wants to catch Phil Hughes next week because he’s worked with Hughes only once this spring.
The Yankees are also breaking in a new backup behind the plate, but Martin said he has an advantage over the young guys because his big league experience makes it easier to adjust at this level.
“I have a bigger sample of past pitchers to kind of reflect on that are kind of similar,” Martin said. “A big part of it is knowing the hitters and how big league hitters approach the game, and knowing the different types of hitters. It’s a process. You never stop learning.”
Associated Press photo of Martin with Brett Gardner