Russell Martin: I wanted to see if the Dodgers still believed in me
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Russell Martin, New York Yankee.
Could take some time to get used to. For Martin, too, it seems.
In a conference call Thursday, however, he made it clear that he wanted to know where he stood with the Dodgers. And they gave him their response when they elected not to tender him a contract, allowing him to become a free agent.
‘I wanted to see how much they really wanted me, because if they did, they would have tendered me a contract,’ Martin said. ‘That was really it. I wanted to see how bad the Dodgers wanted me and if they still believed in me. By doing that, they kind of gave me the answer.’
Martin also said his injured hip was behind him; that the need for knee surgery -- discovered during his physical with the Yankees -- won’t prevent him from being ready to start camp; that although he signed for similar money to what the Dodgers offered, he doesn’t feel he misread the market; and that he’s confident talent doesn’t go away and he can still hit.
Here are the topics he covered Thursday:
On the status of his injured hip: ‘It feels great. I haven’t had anything wrong with it for at least a month now. With the new thing [knee], now it’s making it get even more rest. Now it’s going to be ready for sure. There’s absolutely no problem with it. Before I hurt my knee, I was really pushing it pretty hard in training and didn’t have any side effects. I had full range of motion and everything. My hip is over with, man, so I’m happy about that.’’
On his meniscus tear and looming surgery: ‘It’s the first time I’ve had any problem with my knees, so I really don’t know what to expect. I’ve never had any surgery. From what I’ve heard, it’s a pretty simple operation. I think CC [Sabathia] had it done at the end of the year. It’s a three-week recovery and then rehab. I’m not too concerned with it. Obviously the timing is bad, because it will affect my off-season training a little bit. But my main goal is to be healthy for the season, and from what I’ve heard, I will be ready by spring training.’
Explaining his drop-off the past two seasons: ‘I think it’s me trying to make adjustments to be even better. I made adjustments in my training. I tried to be a little more athletic, a little faster, instead of just staying with the basics that got me to the big leagues and what made me successful in the beginning. I think I got almost in my own way.
‘That’s offensively. Defensively I felt like I was getting better every year. I’m learning more, understanding pitchers better, understanding hitters better. In that regard, I feel like I’ve advanced. For me, it’s the most important job I have.’
On whether he was surprised by the Dodgers’ decision to non-tender him: ‘Not necessarily surprised. I always knew there was a possibility. It was definitely a tough call for them. You have a guy who hasn’t been doing that good the last couple years, and you’re giving him a raise again. So not surprised.’
If he felt his group of rising stars met expectations as Dodgers: ‘We got a taste of what we wanted to accomplish. But there’s only one winner, and the goal is to win the World Series. But we got to the playoffs, we had some good seasons. As a team we fell short a couple years. It was a great experience, a good learning process. But the goal is to win the whole thing, so a little disappointed. As for myself, I’m obviously disappointed the way it all ended.
‘But those guys are like family to me. Coming up through the minors with them and winning in the minors and having some success in the big leagues was fine, but I guess I’m starting to learn about the business side a little now.’
Hard to accept his time as a Dodger is over: ‘I think it’s going to hit more once I’m in a different uniform. Right now I’m still in the offseason doing the same things I usually do. I’m in my routine. Once it gets a little closer to spring training, I’ll start realizing that I’m with a new family now.
‘I enjoyed my time with the Dodgers. Those are still my boys over there, and I wish them the best of luck.’
On whether he felt he misread the market and has any regrets about not signing with the Dodgers: ‘Not really. I just really wanted to find out, and sometimes the only way to find out how much a team wants you is to take a risk. Obviously there was a risk there. I took a chance. It’s tough not being with the guys I’ve always played with, but my main goal is just having a chance to win. And if you want to pick a place to win, I don’t think there’s any better place than New York with the Yankees.’
Reasons he picked the Yankees: ‘I’ve heard so many good things about the Yankees organization, a winning organization, and it’s been that way forever. And I’m excited to be closer to home on the East Coast and be able to have some family come and see me play. But really the main thing is having an opportunity to win and have a chance to go to the World Series.’
His expected role with the Yankees: ‘They’ve told me that I’m the starting catcher. That’s what I expect to be, that’s what I’m training to be. I feel like I have to earn that.’
If he’s found that ideal, elusive training program: ‘The workout I’m doing now is pretty intense. I’m probably going to be in the best shape of my life going into spring training. I’m expecting what I’ve done in the past, but hopefully even better. I’m going to do everything I can to get back to those ways. Talent just doesn’t go away. I know I can hit. I just want to get back to that consistency.’
Said he currently weighs 213 and wants to go to camp between 215 and 220: ‘Last year was just ... I thought I was in shape, but I guess I wasn’t compared to the shape I’m in right now. That was my fault. Then I injured my groin in spring training, and that kinda slowed my spring training down. I have no excuses. All I know is, I’m doing everything I can to be in the best shape that I can be.’
-- Steve Dilbeck