THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO — Russell Martin feels the lessons he’s learned from his struggles the past two seasons have him primed for a big 2011 with the New York Yankees.
The two-time all-star catcher from Chelsea, Que., attending Baseball Canada’s annual awards banquet Saturday, attributed his consecutive off-years with the Los Angeles Dodgers to poor preparation.
That’s all changed now, and he says "this year I’m looking to be better" than ever.
"Probably some frustrations, probably not training as hard as I should have in some ways," Martin said in explaining his 2009 and ’10 seasons. "That’s always been my strength, is training my butt off, doing all those things in the best way possible. And I think I had some distractions that maybe led me not to have that same drive that I’ve had in the past. Really, that’s all it is, I trained hard, but before nobody trained as hard as I did.
"This year I feel like I’m back. Just mentally, I feel better."
Asked about the distractions, he said, "there are some things that you keep for yourself, and those distractions are personal."
Martin made the National League all-star team in 2007 (.293, 19 homers, 87 RBIs) and 2008 (.280, 13, 69) before his offensive numbers dipped dramatically.
In 2009, he batted just .250 with seven homers and 53 RBIs, while last season he hit .248 with five homers and 26 RBIs before a broken right hip ended his year in early August.
Concerns about his health and the decline in production led the Dodgers to not tender him a contract, making him a free agent. While they continued to talk about bringing him back, he instead found a new home with the Yankees.
The Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox also made strong pitches for Martin, with the decision coming down to the Yankees or Toronto, he said.
Ultimately, he accepted a one-year deal worth US$4 million.
"The Yankees were a little bit more aggressive and a little less concerned with the injuries I had," said Martin. "I was told by my agent that (the Blue Jays) were willing to match the Yankees’ offer but in my mind it was where do I have a chance to win the World Series the most next year.
"My opinion was I had the best chance with the Yankees."
Also factoring in was that the Yankees plan to use Martin exclusively at catcher. The Blue Jays wanted him to catch four days a week, play somewhere else a couple of times a week (likely third base) and then take a day off.
"The Yankees were just like, ‘Hey, we want you to catch as much as possible, we want you to be our guy,"’ said Martin. "That helped my decision as well."