Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin dealing with ‘nagging injury’

Russell Martin is playing hurt, and at no point was this more evident than on Wednesday as he laboured his way to first base. And now the Blue Jays will have to decide; rest him or have him play through it?

PHILADELPHIA – The way Russell Martin grimaced out of the batter’s box and struggled through each laboured stride down the first-base line in the ninth inning Wednesday made it more evident than at any other point this year that something is wrong with the Toronto Blue Jays catcher.

Reluctantly, after a 7-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, Martin admitted that his left “leg is sore” but offered no further details about the injury, or excuses for how it’s hampering his performance. He did mention he had the same thing with the Pittsburgh Pirates last year, when he missed nearly a month with a strained left hamstring.

Whatever the case, his running has clearly been compromised, and he surely doesn’t have his legs underneath him the way he’d like at the plate. Despite that, he wants no time off, no sympathy, and is adamant he’s more than fine to keep on playing.

“Doing the best I can,” he said after a 1-for-4 night that included reaching on an error in the ninth. “It doesn’t feel great but it doesn’t really affect me behind the plate, I can still receive and throw to the bases and do certain things. The running part is a part of my game, it’s not necessarily a strength of mine, it’s sore, but it’s not career threatening or anything like that, so it’s not an excuse.”

Maybe not, but it very well could be a reason why the all-star is just 19-for-86 since the break, and 5-for-45 in 12 August contests. He’s had a tough season between learning to catch R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball, dealing with the wild, live arms the Blue Jays ran through the bullpen in the early part of the season and all the other abuses catchers suffer behind the plate.

Asked if Martin might need some extra time off, manager John Gibbons said, “I think he’s fine, he’s not complaining about it. He hasn’t complained once.”

The Blue Jays on Thursday will enjoy their second off-day this week, and with another coming Monday, this can be an important period of recuperation for him. But that’s no guarantee to resolve things – last year with the Pirates, he was on the DL with the hamstring strain April 26-May 22, and was again day-to-day with tightness in the area at the end of September.

Either way, he doesn’t think he’s at risk of making things worse.

“I’ve been doing it for a while, so I don’t think it’s an issue or anything like that,” he said. “I’m not concerned with it, I expect to go out there and play at a high level.”

Over his 101 games Martin has certainly done that, posting a slash line of .244/.326/.436 with 15 homers and 51 RBIs, but he doesn’t have an extra base hit in August and his drive isn’t there off the bat, a possible indicator his legs aren’t helping him the way they usually do.

“It’s something I had last year in Pittsburgh, too, it’s really not an excuse,” said Martin. “I’ve had this nagging injury for a while now, and even this year, I’ve had some hot spells and I’ve had some cold spells, and I’m not really thinking about it, I’m trying to go out there and help the team win that day, try to have good at-bats and sometimes you do, and sometimes you don’t.”

He hasn’t lately, and the way he ran down the line Wednesday offered a good indicator why. Perhaps an off-day Thursday will refresh him for Friday’s series opener against the Los Angeles Angels, or not, but rest will certainly not hurt.

“I think everybody can (benefit from rest) at this point of the season,” he said, “but I just try to recover as best as I can and just keep going out there, keep fighting and keep grinding.”

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