In a lot of ways, it seems Russell Martin was brought to New York to be behind the plate, not at the plate.
True, the Yankees knew there was some upside in his bat, but after a series of injuries and two down seasons with the Dodgers, the biggest appeal of Martin was that he could definitely catch. He seemed healthy again, and as long as he stayed that way, he would be a reliable catcher for a team transitioning at the position.
It’s incredibly early, but so far Martin’s been more than that. Today he hit two home runs in a game for the first time since 2007. He’s hitting .321 and has three homers and eight RBI out as the No. 9 hitter.
“I wasn’t really worried about (the bat), I was just wondering when it was going to come back,” Martin said. “So far, so good. It’s a long season, so I’m not getting ahead of my skis by any means. I’m just going to keep going out there, keep playing hard and hopefully keep playing good… I’m not old by any means, so I feel good. I finally feel healthy, strong, and I’m ready to compete.”
For obvious reasons, the Yankees are loving everything about their new catcher. Not only is he hitting, Martin seems to have already gained the trust of the Yankees pitching staff. Joe Girardi has been touting his work ethic since spring training.
At the plate, though, Martin has been a best-case scenario. He showed in his first three years with the Dodgers that he can be a front-line offensive catcher. Martin said that he didn’t feel as strong in the 2009 and 2010 seasons, when those numbers dipped, but he feels strong now and it’s showing.
“I saw him as a very productive player, and I thought he could produce for us,” Girardi said. “I wouldn’t say he was going to hit 30 homers and 120 RBIs, but I thought he could be a productive player in our lineup because he can do so many things.”
Here’s some of Martin talking after the game.
• Some first start for Eric Chavez, who doubled in his first two at-bats and later singled. You might expect him to say he wants to be playing every day, but Chavez said being a backup is actually a great role for him right now. “In New York I’m in the batting cage like every three innings, so I’m just going to stay ready like that,” he said.
• According to the Red Sox, Martin is the first Yankees catcher with a multi-homer game at Fenway since Jorge Posada in 2003. This was only the second time in the past 16 seasons that a Yankees catcher other than Posada had two home runs in a game (John Flaherty did it in Baltimore in 2003).
• Curtis Granderon’s home run off lefty Felix Doubront was his second home run off a lefty this season. Last season he didn’t hit his second home run off a left-hander until August 24.
• Robinson Cano on the near double play that would have ended the fifth inning: “I didn’t grab the ball. I never had a grip on the ball so that’s why I didn’t throw it. I didn’t want to throw it into the stands.”
• Speaking of Cano, the guy rakes at Fenway. He went 3-for-5 with a home run today, raising his career average in this park to .367. “I think it’s luck,” Cano said. “It’s a favorite. Whenever you can hit in a ballpark, it’s where you always want to play. But it’s nothing special that I do. I do the same thing.”
• The most obvious problem for Ivan Nova today was that he kept letting the leadoff man reach base. The underlying problem was that his fastball command was off. “If I can’t command my fastball,” he said, “it’s not going to be a good day.”
• No one said much about him postgame, but Joba Chamberlain looked awfully good today. One inning, two strikeouts, seemed to have that big slider working again.
• After Chavez had such a impressive first start, it was natural to wonder when Girardi might try to get Chavez back in the lineup. “Let me enjoy this one for 10 minutes,” Girardi said. “We’ve just been outside for four hours. I’ve got all day to think about what I’m going to do tomorrow. We’ve got a late game. And we’ll be here late too.”
Associated Press photos