Martin gets above .300

Times Staff Writer

MILWAUKEE -- It has been a long, steady climb, but Russell Martin's average has topped .300 for the first time this season. And even the Dodgers' All-Star catcher admits the accomplishment is bittersweet since it came at a time when the team is scuffling.

"If I'm hitting .300 and we're not winning and if I'm hitting .220 and we're winning, I'd rather hit .220," Martin said after going four for seven in the first two games of a three-game set with the Brewers, lifting his average to .302.

Even .200 was a stretch for a while for Martin, a career .290 hitter who was batting only .197 -- and pressing -- three weeks into the season.

"When he wasn't hitting, he was going harder and harder," Manager Joe Torre said. "It's very tough to convince young kids [to have] patience. But he's a battler. He's not going to quit."

And though Martin says he doesn't pay attention to numbers, a quick check of the figures shows he is batting .360 since April 11. He's also among the National League leaders in walks with 30.

"I just go out there and play my game," he said. "You get a couple of knocks, get a couple of bloopers here or there and it gets you back on track. I try never to let the numbers affect the way I feel. And I try not to let them affect the way I play.

"That was the first time I had such a bad start in my career. It was tough, but you've just got to keep playing and not worry about numbers. Because that's why you play. You just play to win.

"And if your focus is on winning then the rest will just take care of itself."


Jason Schmidt will make his second minor league rehab start Saturday for Inland Empire, the Dodgers' Class-A affiliate in San Bernardino, and is scheduled to throw between 30 and 45 pitches.

Schmidt pitched an inning for Inland Empire on Sunday, then threw approximately three dozen pitches in the bullpen here Wednesday under the direction of trainer Stan Conte.

The Dodgers have not established a timetable for Schmidt's return beyond Saturday. The former All-Star, who had season-ending shoulder surgery 11 months ago, has pitched only 25 2/3 innings for the Dodgers since signing a three-year, $47-million free-agent contract in December 2006.


Rafael Furcal is making progress in physical therapy to ease the pain in his lower back. But with the possibility that Nomar Garciaparra could return from the disabled list before Furcal, Torre said he might use Garciaparra at shortstop to keep Blake DeWitt in the lineup at third.

"He was taking groundballs there" Tuesday, Torre said of Garciaparra, a five-time American League All-Star at shortstop who moved to the corner infield spots four years ago. "He volunteered that he could do this. And I certainly would be open to it."


Andruw Jones, who has been studying video and working with batting coach Don Mattingly the last two days, showed signs he may be ready to break out of his season-long slump with his second two-hit game of the year.

"Donny will see little things, physical things," Torre said. "Whether it's the feet, first move on your hips; different things that he could really look for. That makes him so valuable for me."


Chan Ho Park, 1-0 with a 2.16 earned-run average in 25 innings of relief, will make his first start as a Dodger since 2001 in Saturday's interleague game at Angel Stadium. . . . With Juan Pierre and Jones at the top of the order and Martin hitting fifth, Wednesday's lineup was the 34th combination Torre has tried in 39 games this season. . . . After 10 seasons in the minors Luis Maza made his big-league debut, at shortstop, in the ninth inning Wednesday.


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