Martin starts at shortstop, breaks up no-hitter
PHILADELPHIA -- For the first time in 1,462 Major League starts, Russell Martin got to live out a childhood dream.
Martin, a 35-year-old catcher, made his first career start at shortstop in the Blue Jays' 2-1 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Martin made just one play in an uneventful defensive afternoon, but it was still an exhilarating experience for the versatile veteran.
"As a kid growing up, my dream was to always play shortstop at the Major League level," Martin said. "I got away from it when I got converted to being a catcher after my first season in pro ball. But I've always felt like I've had the ability to play there. Getting that opportunity was awesome."
Martin began his professional career as an infielder before moving behind the plate. He's made 33 big league appearances at third base, but before Saturday, he played shortstop for just one inning. That came against the Mets on May 15.
The Phillies hit just two balls Martin's way. He made a smooth, backhanded stop and threw out Jorge Alfaro from deep in the hole in the fifth inning. Maikel Franco then hit a 106.4-mph grounder past a diving Martin in the seventh.
"I didn't really get a lot of action, but I made that one play," Martin said. "Would've been nice to make that diving play, too, but I felt like I was playing too far in the hole."
The Blue Jays have had a revolving door at the position this season, and manager John Gibbons told Martin on Friday night that he wanted to give him a shot at starting in the role.
"Really, we don't have a true shortstop on the team right now," Gibbons said. "Russ has got good range, got a good arm, he has good everything, has good hands."
With Troy Tulowitzki sidelined after foot surgery, Toronto has used seven different players at shortstop this season. Aledmys Diaz was the primary shortstop to start the season, but is on the disabled list after spraining his left ankle on May 6. Gio Urshela was the team's starting shortstop in seven of the last nine games before Saturday.
Along with his experience as a third baseman, including three starts this season, Martin has also played second base in four Major League games. Gibbons expressed confidence with Martin anywhere in the infield.
"He's a good athlete. I was really impressed, but I wasn't worried one bit about him," Gibbons said after Saturday's game.
Tulowitzki was recently cleared to run on flat ground, but is still "a ways away" from rejoining the Blue Jays. Diaz is closer to returning and will likely start a rehab assignment next week.
In the meantime, Martin -- who broke up Aaron Nola's no-hitter in the seventh inning Saturday -- gives the Blue Jays another option at shortstop.
"If we were healthy, I wouldn't sniff that position," Martin said. "But right now, I feel like we got a lot of guys hurt and Gibby is trying to work things, keep guys in the lineup and find ways to win."
Pompey sent down; Garcia off DL
Outfielder Dalton Pompey was optioned back to Triple-A Buffalo on Saturday as the Blue Jays activated left-hander Jaime Garcia off the disabled list before his start against the Phillies. Pompey was with the Blue Jays for just one day on his most recent promotion, and he did not play in Friday night's 6-5 win over the Phillies. Pompey, 25, has appeared in five games for the Blue Jays this season and is 2-for-10 at the plate.