Martin comes back strong

Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Russell Martin was back in the Dodgers’ lineup Thursday, and his sprained left knee was sturdy enough to withstand an entire game behind the plate and a run home from first on a seventh-inning double by James Loney.

“I feel fine,” Martin said. “I was running 100%, I was swinging pretty good. It felt like any other day.”

Martin was two for four, including a leadoff single in the ninth inning that set the stage for Andre Ethier’s winning three-run home run.

Martin sat out Wednesday night’s loss to the Cubs, after he was hurt Tuesday in a failed attempt to avoid a tag at the plate. An MRI exam revealed a mild sprain to the ligament on the outside of his left knee.


Martin tested the knee Thursday morning by putting on his pads, crouching and pretending to block balls in the dirt.

“If I could do that,” he said, “I knew I could play.”

Explaining why he didn’t hesitate to thrust Martin back into the lineup, Manager Grady Little said, “This is a different individual. This is Russell Martin we’re talking about.”

By that, was Little referring to his physical or mental resilience?

“Russell Martin is all those parts,” Little said. “There aren’t too many Russell Martins. I wish I had 24 more just like him.”

Little said that if Martin had been unable to play, the start would have gone to Chad Moeller, an emergency catcher who hasn’t been used since his call-up Sept. 1.

With Jeff Kent taking the day off, Tony Abreu started at second base. Abreu, who was recalled from triple-A Las Vegas on Tuesday, said he still felt the effects of a lingering abdominal strain he suffered with the big-league club in July.

That didn’t keep him from going one for three and recording eight assists.

“I felt a little better,” Abreu said. “I wanted to play because I’ve already missed too many games this year.”

Said Little of the decision to play Abreu: “It’s a hard read, but he’s ready to play. It’s hard to say exactly how much any of the players are hurting out there.”

The Houston Astros have asked the Dodgers for permission to interview assistant general manager Logan White for their vacant general manager position, according to a baseball source. White, promoted to his present position this season, spent five years as the Dodgers director of amateur scouting.

Takashi Saito thought his day was over when he picked up his 37th save, only to discover a samurai outfit hanging in his locker for him to wear on the Dodgers’ flight to San Francisco.

When it was pointed out he was being forced to wear a costume with the other first- and second-year players at age 37, Saito exclaimed, “I know.”

Saito’s earned-run average of 1.29 is the lowest in the majors among pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched. A couple of Japanese reporters told him that his season save total matched Kazuhiro Sasaki’s second-best total while with the Seattle Mariners. Saito and Sasaki were high school, college and pro teammates in Japan.

Juan Pierre stole his 56th base of the season, tying him with Steve Sax for the most by a Dodger since Davey Lopes swiped 63 in 1976.