Russell Martin could return to Dodgers next weekend

Dodgers catcher Russell Martin throws during a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on March 30.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Russell Martin didn’t mince words. The veteran catcher doesn’t want to go on a rehab assignment before coming off the injured list and communicated that desire to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. So even though Roberts had said the club was considering sending Martin to the minors for a game or two to test his previously ailing back, the plans have changed.

Roberts said Sunday that Martin is slated to see live pitching Friday at Dodger Stadium and will be activated against the Pittsburgh Pirates next weekend if he emerges healthy.

“I talked to him, the training staff,” Roberts said. “We feel comfortable that a rehab assignment for a day or two probably is not going to be an option.”


Martin, 36, was placed on the 10-day disabled list with lower back inflammation April 10. It’s an injury he’s dealt with before and one that he said might force him to adjust his crouch behind the plate. Martin explained his staggered squat, which he has used to making throwing runners out easier, could have placed more stress on his back. He theorized a more neutral crouch should alleviate the pressure.

Martin took batting practice on the field Saturday for the first time since sustaining the injury. He also caught a bullpen and blocked balls behind the plate. Sunday morning, Martin was on the field running and playing catch. Roberts said he will continue assuming that workload when the team is in Chicago to play the Cubs this week.

Acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays after a career-worst offensive campaign, Martin is five for 15 with five walks in six games. His absence has prompted the Dodgers to place the catching onus on Austin Barnes, who has started nine of the Dodgers’ last 12 games, including Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers. Rocky Gale, Martin’s replacement, has started the other three games. Barnes and Gale have combined to go four for 39 (.103) with three walks since Martin landed on the injured list. All four hits were singles.

Rich Hill to debut next weekend

Roberts said the Dodgers also expect to activate Rich Hill from the injured list next weekend against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hill was scheduled to leave the Dodgers on Sunday to travel to Arizona, where he will make his second rehab start in extended spring training at the team’s facility in Glendale, Ariz.

Roberts said Hill, who started the season on the injured list with a strained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, will pitch five innings or 75 pitches in a game before possibly throwing another inning in the bullpen. If all goes well, he will start for the Dodgers on Saturday or Sunday.


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Twitter: @jorgecastillo