Russell Martin has been an interesting player for the Pirates so far this season, to say the very least. He’s only hitting .178 to this point, racking up a total of eight hits, but four of those have gone for extra bases.
Martin has definitely shown that he has a powerful arm throughout his career, but we only have a very small sample size of what his abilities to hold a running game in check are in his time working with the Pirates staff (if you’re interested in the numbers, they can be viewed here). All in all, Martin hasn’t been stellar – at least not for the amount of money that the Pirates are paying him on his current contract.
While this is disappointing, we hear a lot about Martin’s versatility, including claims from him that he can play shortstop (he lobbied extensively to start there for team Canada in the World Baseball Classic before bowing out right before the tournament). Tonight, he won’t get to play shortstop (most likely), but he will be a starter – not in his regular position of catcher – instead, he will get the start at third base.
We saw Martin play at third base once before this season, when he made a brief appearance there during the Cardinals series, and he has made sixteen career appearances at the position.
The move was most likely made to fill the lineup spot of Pedro Alvarez, who will get the night off as the Pirates face Braves starter Paul Maholm (who has been dealing so far this season, at 3-0 with an ERA of 0.00), given his difficulties against left-handed pitching. Whether or not this move will work out well for Clint Hurdle has yet to be seen of course (but Hurdle does seem comfortable with the move right now), but it will certainly be interesting to see our starting catcher over at third base tonight.
This is going to be a tough enough matchup for the Pirates to begin with, but it’s looking like it might be a weird one, too. Let’s trust they find a way to pull this one out tonight.