Russell Martin's start at third base in tonight's game against the Braves is only his ninth start in the majors at that position, but he said this afternoon that he's not worried about playing at the hot corner.
"[My comfort level] is pretty high," he said. "Fielding ground balls, making throws across the diamond -- it's what I've done my whole life, besides the last couple years of my career where I haven't played there as much. But throughout my childhood and throughout my early age, that was my premier position.
"I played college at third base, [and] my first year of pro ball was at third base. It's kind of like riding a bike," he added.
While it's questionable how often the Pirates would want to get Martin's bat in the lineup when he's not starting behind the plate, it might make sense for them to do it occasionally against lefties, since Pedro Alvarez doesn't hit well against them, and both Martin and Michael McKenry bat right-handed. It's still probably a bit premature for the Pirates to think of Alvarez as a platoon player, but an occasional day off is no big deal, and a start at third base gives Martin a respite from the daily grind of catching.
"It definitely helps you get a breather mentally," Martin said. "For me it feels like a day off, mentally."
The Dodgers made Martin a catcher while he was still in the low minors.
"I was in extended spring training in 2002, and I think the head scouting director was there, and they brought me in to catch one bullpen," he says. "The guy was Jumbo Diaz [former Dodgers and Pirates minor-leaguer Jose Diaz], who threw like 100 MPH. ... They kind of sold me on it, like, 'You're going to have a better chance of making the majors if you go to catcher.'"
That was enough for Martin, who decided he would try his best at whatever position the Dodgers wanted him to play. But he viewed catching as a challenge, whereas third base was a more natural fit.
"I don't regret anything ... but it definitely was a step back going to catch, because it was learning a whole new position and learning a whole new aspect of the game, whereas third base is just, you just go out there and you go play."
David Manel contributed to this post.