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Hurdle thinks Martin's well-suited for two-spot

PITTSBURGH -- Catcher Russell Martin was moved back into the second spot in the batting order, and the Pirates' offense perked up with 11 runs on Thursday night against Milwaukee.

"It worked out great," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He hit second probably more than anybody in Spring Training. In just about every game until the last week he hit second, and I started if off just because I wanted him to get the extra at-bat early -- he was only catching five innings. Then you start watching it, and I'm watching the at-bats, how he's starting to block the ball off, he's hitting the ball to the bigger part of the park. He hit three or four home runs in Spring Training to right field."

In Friday's 5-3 loss to the Brewers, Martin hit from the two-spot again. He drove in a pair of runs with a groundout in the first and a single in the third, and he finished the night 2-for-4 with a walk.

"We didn't get out of the chute quite the way we wanted," said Hurdle. "[Pirates bench coach] Jeff Banister and I talked -- [Martin is] a backyard ballplayer, I think you saw an approach from the first at-bat. That ball was squared up and hit to center, and he's on base four times, a couple walks. We'll see where he takes it, but anybody that can swing the bat a little bit and get on base in front of [Andrew] McCutchen, that's where we need to get him up in that two-spot."

"I definitely feel strong at the plate," Martin said. "I feel like I'm seeing the ball well, even early this year. I've lined out more than a few times. As long as I'm getting good, solid contact at the plate and putting the ball in play and I'm swinging at pitches I want to swing at, I feel good about it. Sometimes you can't really control the results, where the guys are playing you and stuff like that, but as far as how I feel, that's what is important, and I feel confident at the plate. I'm seeing the ball well, and I think I'm going to have a good year this year."

George Von Benko is a contributor to
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