DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) — Russell Martin totally enjoyed his days in Pittsburgh. Two years, two playoff appearances after helping transform the also-ran Pirates into postseason contenders.
Now with Toronto, the three-time All-Star catcher will soon get a look from across the diamond at what he left behind. The Blue Jays open exhibition play Tuesday when they host the Pirates.
“I had a great time in Pittsburgh,” said Martin, who signed a five-year, $82 million deal with the Blue Jays in November. “The clubhouse was great. That whole staff was fun to work with. I’ve got nothing but praise for those guys.”
When he glances at the opposing dugout in the spring training opener, many memories will likely come streaming back. But only for a fleeting second, he insists.
“No matter who the other team is, I’m not really concerned with the other team too much,” Martin said. “I feel like if you focus on what you need to do and what your teammates need to do, we’ll be in a good spot. But it’s going to be good to see the old teammates, for sure.”
Martin enters his first season in his native Toronto with an opportunity to create similar experiences.
When he joined the Pirates as a free agent in 2012, the franchise was mired in a downward spiral, going without a postseason appearance — or even a winning season — for 21 consecutive seasons.
That changed in 2013 when they finished second to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central at 94-68. Pittsburgh then won the wild-card game over Cincinnati, before falling to the Cardinals in the NL Division Series.
The Pirates again finished in second behind St. Louis last season, but were defeated by the eventual World Series champion Giants in the wild-card matchup. Martin batted .290 with 11 home runs and 67 RBIs in 111 games.
With the Blue Jays stuck in a postseason drought of their own, dating back to the 1993 World Series title, Martin has the potential to play a role in two significant turnarounds.
But Martin said he isn’t paying close attention to the numbers or the history.
“It’s a new team. It’s a new beginning,” he said. “You can’t control what happened in the past, but you can control how you prepare and the effort you put out in a game.”
“For me, it’s the only way to go about it, or else you can just go crazy thinking about other stuff,” he said.
NOTES: Martin worked with ace R.A. Dickey for a 17-pitch inning of live action for the first time during an intrasquad game Monday. Martin said he has slightly adjusted his crouch, leaning to the side to be in better position to catch Dickey’s knuckleball. “It’s not easy,” Martin said. “I’m going to have to focus every pitch. It’s almost like I’m at the plate hitting. It’s that type of focus that I need to have.” … Three-time All-Star OF Vernon Wells will return to the Blue Jays as a guest instructor from Tuesday to Thursday. The 36-year-old Wells retired after last season following a 15-year career in the majors. He spent the first 11 with Toronto.
This article was written by JEFF ODOM from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.