Monday, January 31, 2011

Don Mattingly Unsure of Russell Martin's Future

Yankees starting catcher Russell Martin still has a high upside after two disappointing seasons, but as to whether he can recover his earliervpotential at the age of 28 remains an open question for new Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.

"I'm not sure how he'll do, but one thing I can say is he won't be afraid," said Mattingly, who spent his entire playing career in front of the often intimidating fans in New York. Like Martin, Mattingly in his later years was a shadow of his former self, perhaps with injuries to blame.

In a recent interview with Mike Francesca on WFAN Radio 660 in New York, Mattingly said Martin stands to benefit from a change of scenery after the former Dodgers catcher was non-tendered in Los Angeles.

Mattingly focused on Martin's competitiveness and work ethic as key in potentially helping him to rediscover his former form, though the one-time Yankees superstar made no mention of frequent criticism that former Dodgers manager Joe Torre, for whom Mattingly served as bench coach, wore out the young backstop.

Most notably, Martin saw 620 at-bats in the middle of the Dodgers batting order in 2007, the year after his Rookie of the Year campaign, and hit .293 with 19 homers, an extraordinary amount of playing time for a catcher. By 2010, Martin's average had fallen to .245 with only five homers after he developed hip and knee trouble that may explain his shortcomings. Martin steadfastly has refused to cite injuries as an excuse, however.

Mattingly also said it was "really tough" to fire third base coach Larry Bowa, the former Phillies manager and Yankees third base coach. Bowa has been replaced by Triple A Albuquerque coach and former All Star Tim Wallach.

Mattingly predicted a tough struggle not only for the Dodgers but other teams in the National League West due to fierce competion.