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Martin wants to play short for Canada in Classic

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pirates prospects Jameson Taillon and Chris Leroux have been slotted to start for Team Canada in the opening round of the World Baseball Classic, against the United States and Mexico, respectively.

The irony is that Pirates batterymate Russell Martin, the lone big league receiver on Team Canada's roster, may not be catching them.

Instead, Martin-to-Morneau could be a common call as long as Team Canada is alive in the Classic.

As in, Martin fields the grounder to short and tosses to first baseman Justin Morneau for the out.

Bemused grins greeted Martin's initial comments that he would like to play shortstop in the international tournament. However, that idea has leapt from his wish-list onto his to-do list.

"I'm doing it. It's a position I really want to play," Russell said Tuesday morning in Pirate City. "I was signed as a catcher [by the Pirates, to a two-year contract as a free agent], so it isn't going to happen here. But it's a position I've always wanted to play, and this gives me a chance."

Martin was drafted in 2002 by the Dodgers as a second baseman, and has played a handful of Major League games in the infield, but none at short. It is an entry on his bucket list he is eager to check off.

"I just want to have fun [in the Classic]. It's tough enough having to learn a whole new [Pirates] staff here. I really don't want to have to do it twice," he said. "Canada has a young pitching staff, and that would be too much pressure, too much responsibility."

The only other catcher on the Canadian roster is Chris Robinson, an eight-year Minor League veteran in the Orioles organization. The roster includes Major Leaguers Brett Lawrie and Pete Orr, but both are corner infielders.

Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington is aware of Martin's plans and said, "We'll sit down and discuss it with him soon."