Spring training is always a time for players to get their work in but on the back fields at Pirate City in Bradenton; you can get a look at something unusual- a catcher working out at shortstop.
Newly signed catcher Russell Martin has been very busy learning the Pirates pitching staff, but in his spare time, he has also been busy taking grounders at shortstop.
That’s not to say the Pirates are considering debuting their new catcher in the middle of the infield, but that’s exactly where the athletic Martin will be lining up for Team Canada in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
“It’s hilarious, the reactions I get,” Martin said Monday to FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi at the Pirates’ spring complex. “It’s like, ‘This guy’s a catcher. He wants to play shortstop.’ ”
Martin hasn’t started a regular-season game on the infield since 2008, when he played for the Los Angeles Dodgers. That was at third base. But Canada doesn’t have a major leaguer with meaningful experience at shortstop. So, Martin appears to be their best option as only Baltimore minor-leaguer Chris Robinson is currently on Canada’s roster.
A shortstop glove arrived for Martin over the weekend and he has been busy breaking it in, even if it is against popular opinion, even though he had said the Pirates supported his decision to leave camp to play a new position for Team Canada.
He also told Morosi:
“I like to prove people wrong,” Martin said. “I’m going to do what I feel like doing. I feel like playing shortstop. It’s a selfish move from my part. But it’s what I love to do. Sometimes you’ve got to do what you feel like doing for yourself. And I want to do it. And if it goes well, then great. I expect it to go well, because I know I have the talent. I’m doing the work I need to do now to not embarrass myself and my country. Hopefully, people will be pleasantly surprised when they see how I play.”
That may be the case as Martin is one of the more athletic catchers in the game.
But as much as Pirates fans were unhappy with the performance of current shortstop Clint Barmes a season ago, I think his job is safe for now as once Martin does return from the WBC, his dreams of playing shortstop will be behind him and he can focus on the Pirates pitching staff.
However it will be interesting to see exactly how Martin fares in the middle of the diamond.