Martin puts the weight of his decision on himself
He reported to camp this spring about 25 pounds bigger than last year. His theory: He lost some pop last season and the extra muscle will help him regain his power stroke.
Last year he hit only seven home runs, with 53 RBI, compared with 13 and 69 in 2008, and 19 and 87 in 2007. The latter were both All-Star seasons. Last year he also hit a career-low .250.
So can the extra beef translate into a better offensive performance, while not limiting him behind the plate?
Skeptics are out there. Manager Joe Torre, a former catcher, said he’s uncertain whether it’s the correct approach.
''I don’t know," Torre said. "We’ll all wait and see.
"But he seems to be moving around all right. I watch him do some agility drills with the catching, because it’s going to show more there, but he seems to be fine.
"But I think we’re all going to find out at the same time."’
"He’s certainly not fat," Torre said. "He’s just wants to have a better year. We’re trying to get him comfortable offensively, because I think that’s what really stirs the whole thing. He knows what he’s done in the past and wants to recapture that. He’s been working diligently with (hitting coaches) Jeff Pentland and Don Mattingly.
"And he’s not forgetting the defensive part. I think he’s certainly a big key for us."
Meanwhile, Cubs catcher Geovany Soto, who suffered a major drop-off after his National League Rookie of the Year season in 2008, went the opposite direction. Soto said he lost 40 pounds in the off-season.
Is one approach right and the other wrong? Does it just depend upon the individual?
It’s not exactly challenging to notice the extra pounds on Martin. And if he is hardly sporting a "Men’s Fitness" cover-boy six pack, the additional weight does appear to be mostly extra muscle.
"It’s not something where he just sat around and ate bonbons," Torre said. "He just worked in a different way."
It’s certainly a different approach from last season. One plenty will be watching.
-- Steve Dilbeck, reporting from Phoenix
Photo: Russell Martin. Credit: Arleen Ng / EPA