Martin (2 HRs) makes rounds

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / April 10, 2011

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As he rounded the bases at Fenway Park after hitting two home runs in the Yankees’ 9-4 win yesterday, at no time did Russell Martin wonder what it would have been like had the Red Sox and not the Yankees signed him to a one-year, $4 million contract.

The 28-year-old catcher never once stopped to think about what kind of numbers he would have put up in the lyric little bandbox in the Fens.

“Really, I wasn’t thinking about that too much,’’ Martin said.

Martin never actually got to explore the possibility when the Sox medical staff raised concerns about his recovery from the right hip fracture that ended his fifth and final season with the Dodgers, in addition to a small meniscus tear in his right knee.

“They were interested, but I think the team doctors saw the X-rays and the MRIs and they were just a little wary with the injuries,’’ Martin said. “They weren’t 100 percent certain and they just didn’t want to pull the trigger and the Yankees were just more aggressive.’’

Martin yesterday rewarded the Yankees for signing him in mid-December to be their starting catcher, while punishing the Red Sox, who opted to go with the unproven Jarrod Saltalamacchia as their starter.

That thought certainly must have crossed the minds of the crowd of 37,488 when Martin belted a three-run homer off Clay Buchholz in the fourth inning to give the Yankees a 5-1 lead and then added to New York’s 13-hit assault by belting a solo homer in the seventh off Alfredo Aceves.

Martin’s 2-for-4 performance improved his average from .292 to .321, while Saltalamacchia, who went 1 for 4, barely moved the needle on his average, going from .167 to .182.

It was the second multi-home run game of Martin’s career and the four RBIs matched a career high for the eighth time.

He was also the first Yankees catcher to have a multi-homer game at Fenway since Jorge Posada did it Aug. 30, 2003.

Asked if the Sox ever put an offer on the table, Martin said, “I’m not really sure. I’d have to ask my agent, but he made it seem like the Yankees were more willing than the Red Sox.’’

The prospect of more playing time attracted Martin to the Yankees after he hit .248, scored 45 runs, had 13 doubles, 5 home runs, and 26 RBIs in 97 games (89 starts at catcher) last season with Dodgers before suffering the hip fracture Aug. 3.

“That was the difference,’’ Martin said. “I know Toronto was interested, too, and they were talking about a little less playing time, probably three or four days a week. But the Yankees said if I came over I could be the starter.’’

It set Martin on a course to heal his body through a rigorous conditioning regimen followed by many mixed martial artists.

“I was at it every day,’’ Martin said. “I pushed hard this offseason more than ever the last couple of years, that’s for sure. It was the same training that the MMA fighters do. I didn’t get in the ring and I didn’t fight anybody, but it’s the same kind of conditioning.’’

Eight games into his first season with the Yankees, Martin is hoping to regain some of the productivity he had in LA, where he was a two-time All Star before his numbers tailed off. He wound up hitting .249 with 12 home runs and 79 RBIs in his last two seasons.

“I felt like I was in a bad place and I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing,’’ Martin said about the decline in his production. “When I had the injury it just hit home: You better get your act together or you’re going to be miserable for a while. I was able to turn the page and get into that good mind frame.’’

But Martin’s positive outlook was challenged when he fought back from his hip injury only to injure his right knee.

“I almost got done climbing a mountain and the next thing you know I’m hurt again,’’ he said. “I felt like I slipped back down the mountain and had to climb back up again.’’

Yesterday, though, he had to feel like he was on top of the world.

“That’s true,’’ Martin said. “I’m back and I’m having fun and I feel healthy and it’s fun to have the Yankees uniform on and be a part of this organization.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at

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