Russell Martin is off to a horrendous start this season, hitting just .186 with 4 HRs and 12 RBIs in 40 games, although his on-base percentage is a respectable .329, owing to the fact that he has nearly as many walks (20) as hits (22).
But as Joe Girardi has said many times before, the quality he values most in a catcher is defense, with hitting a secondary benefit.
“We know that Russell is able to catch at a very high level back there,'' Girardi said. "We’ve seen the balls he’s able to block and all the things he’s able to do behind home plate. As a catcher, to me, the most important job is defense -- and he’s able to do that. He’s also been able to walk and get on base, which has helped. I know that (.186) is not going to be there the whole year, so it’s easy to put him back there.”
Martin had a big two-run double in Monday night's loss, a hit that contributed to the three-run seventh-inning rally that allowed the Yankees to tie the game at 8. "I think he’s hit the ball at times pretty hard,'' Girardi said. "He hasn’t had a lot of luck, so I think (the hit) was important for him.''
Still, Girardi is resigned that the hitter Martin is now may turn out to be all the hitter he is going to be. Although he averaged .285 with 14 HRs and 73 RBIs for his first three major league seasons, Martin has hit just .220 as a Yankee since last April, when he batted .293 with 6 HRs.
“I think he’s important to this team with what he can do (defensively),'' Girardi said. "I can live with (.186). I think you can. Obviously his defense is very important, so if it’s what it’s going to be, we might have to live with it.”