TAMPA—Russell Martin has fallen but the Yankees believe he can get back up.
The catcher looked like a superstar during the 2007 and 2008 seasons with the Dodgers as he was selected to the National League All-Star team each year. Martin hit a combined .286/.380/.432 and averaged 153 games, 16 home runs and 20 stolen bases a season.
However, Martin's production fell off considerably the past two seasons. He combined to hit .249/.350/.330while averaging 120 games, six home runs and eight stolen bases.
Following a season in which he was limited to 97 games because of a hip injury, the Dodgers decided not to tender Martin a contract last November, which made him a free agent. The Yankees signed him to a one-year, $4 million deal to serve as a bridge from Jorge Posada, who is moving to designated hitter, and 21-year-old top prospect Jesus Montero, who the Yankees feel won't be able to handle being an everyday catcher until next season.
While the 28-year-old Martin may be a short-termer in the Bronx, manager Joe Girardi believes he can return to being an All-Star caliber player. Girardi knows something about catchers as he played the position in the major leagues for 15 seasons before retiring in 2003.
"I've talked quite a bit to Russell ever since he got (to spring training)," Girardi said. "I'm really impressed by him, his knowledge of the game and his feel for the game. He understands what he needs to do to get better. If he stays healthy, I don’t see any reason why he won't have a good season. I have a good feeling about him."
Of course, staying healthy will be the key. Martin was able to avoid hip surgery but he did have an arthroscopy done on his knee in December. He won't be ready to play Saturday in the Yankees' Grapefruit League opener against the Phillies but is expected to start seeing game action sometime next week.