Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle gave catcher Russell Martin the loftiest of endorsements prior to Monday's game against the Phillies, suggesting his veteran backstop is as integral to the team as Andrew McCutchen, the reigning National League MVP.
“Russell Martin is just as an important part of this ballclub as Andrew is," Hurdle told Jenn Menendez of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It’s a different role. He has the ability to make every pitcher feel like he’s got the opportunity to be the best he’s ever been that day he’s on the mound with Russell behind the plate. He brings an edge to the clubhouse.”
Martin, who signed a two-year, $17-million deal with Pittsburgh prior to the 2013 campaign, helped the Pirates snap a 20-year playoff drought last season and has continued his strong play into 2014. The 31-year-old ranks third among catchers with 4.6 wins above replacement while hitting .287/.408/.409 with eight home runs and 16 doubles through 96 games.
Hurdle has been quick to lavish praise on Martin this year, as the three-time All-Star is poised to become a free agent at season's end.
“It’s another city they ask a question about the importance of Russell Martin,” Hurdle said. “He’s deserving of the question because he’s impacted this club as much as any player that we've had.”
Feature photo courtesy of Reuters/Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports