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Martin Has Earned Some Security

Times Staff Writer

Grady Little likes to give a cryptic answer when asked about upcoming roster moves.

“We’ll do what gives us the best chance to win,” the manager has said.

But when it comes to rookie catcher Russell Martin, the meaning is clear: Martin is not going back to triple-A Las Vegas any time soon, even when Dioner Navarro comes off the disabled list.

The Dodgers are 8-2 in games started by Martin since he was promoted May 5, the day after Navarro injured his right wrist. The earned-run average of Dodgers pitchers with Martin catching is 3.38. It is a respectable 3.88 under Navarro and is 5.42 with veteran reserve Sandy Alomar Jr. behind the plate.

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The Dodgers say Navarro doesn’t need more time in the minor leagues. They’ve just reached the conclusion Martin is a better catcher. He blocks more pitches in the dirt and throws more accurately. Offensively, they are similar, walking frequently, showing occasional power and getting enough hits to keep the lineup humming.

What to do with Navarro when he is sound? Placing Alomar on the disabled list because of chronically sore hamstrings would be a way to buy time. The Dodgers are reluctant to trade Navarro because it would leave them thin at a physically demanding position.

The only certainty is that Martin will continue to find his name in the lineup as long he plays well.

“I’ve worked hard to get here, and I feel comfortable,” he said. “I don’t feel overmatched at all.”

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With shortstop Rafael Furcal continuing to have problems defensively and Cesar Izturis getting closer to a minor league rehabilitation assignment, the question is obvious: Would the Dodgers consider moving Furcal to another position?

General Manager Ned Colletti and Little say they haven’t seriously thought about it.

Moving Furcal to the outfield is an unlikely scenario. It’s almost as if making such a move with a lifelong infielder in the first year of a three-year, $39-million contract is unthinkable.

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However, the coaches have discussed a contingency plan of moving Furcal to third base if Bill Mueller’s recovery from knee surgery takes longer than expected and Izturis is ready. Furcal’s awkward footwork would be less problematic at third, and his strong arm would remain an asset. It also would enable the Dodgers to showcase Izturis at shortstop and increase his trade value.

Izturis is expected to begin a two- to three-week minor league rehabilitation assignment next week. Mueller will be out at least four weeks.

Furcal has made nine errors this season. From 2002 to 2005, he made 97 errors. Izturis, who won a Gold Glove in 2004, made 47 in the same period.

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With an off day Thursday, Little is contemplating moving Jae Seo’s next start back in order to keep Brett Tomko and Derek Lowe on their regular four days’ rest.

Seo is scheduled to start Saturday against the Angels at Dodger Stadium. The change would involve starting Tomko and Lowe against the Angels on Saturday and Sunday, with Seo pitching in the next series against the Rockies.

Little said Aaron Sele would make his scheduled start Friday against the Angels. Sele’s two Dodgers starts have been excellent, but last season with the Seattle Mariners he was 0-2 with a 10.80 earned-run average against the Angels, for whom he pitched from 2002 to 2004.


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