Martin paying big dividends for Blue Jays
Catcher making club's five-year, $82-million commitment look wise
BOSTON -- The Blue Jays were hoping for a lot of offense from Russell Martin this season, but they weren't necessarily expecting this kind of power.
Martin proved once again in Saturday afternoon's 5-4 win over Boston that he is a force to be reckoned with at the plate, with a go-ahead solo homer in the 11th inning. With the game tied at 4, it was Martin's shot over the Green Monster that helped secure his club's 10th consecutive win.
The 32-year-old has 10 homers this season, which is just one shy of his total from all of last year in Pittsburgh. Martin's shot against Boston went to left field, but it's the six home runs to right which has surprised manager John Gibbons the most.
"I'll tell you what has really impressed me is his opposite-field power," Gibbons said. "He's hit the majority of his home runs the other way, a lot of guys can't do that.
"He has that short, compact swing, he's a strong guy. I don't know that I'm surprised necessarily, but to be where he's at, this early in the season, still, he's sitting on a big, big year."
Martin's timely homer came less than 24 hours after he hit a bases-clearing triple in Toronto's nine-run seventh inning on Friday night. It's a continuation of a recent trend that has seen the veteran catcher bat .381 (8-for-21) during a five-game hitting streak. But the strong numbers go back a lot farther than that.
Entering play on Saturday, Martin ranked first among American League catchers in doubles (11), walks (23), extra base hits (22). He also ranked second in hits (49), on-base percentage (.362), total bases (91) and OPS (.871). It's safe to say the Blue Jays are getting a pretty strong early return on their five-year commitment, valued at $82 million.
The double-digit homer total might seem a little strange for Martin to have this early in the season, but there have been examples of this before. He hit 21 home runs for the Yankees in 2012, and he also has 19 and 18 home run seasons on his resume, as well.
Martin believes at least part of the reason behind a combined 26 home runs from 2013-14 had more to do with the ballpark than anything else.
"I feel like Toronto is a pretty good home run ballpark," Martin said. "Last couple of years I'm in Pittsburgh, and left field, left-center field, is pretty deep out there. I'm not really surprised. I've got decent pop, and if they throw me a decent pitch, I feel like I can hit it out anywhere."