Monday, March 08, 2010

The LA Dodgers Present: The Hurt Locker, Starring Russell Martin

A month before opening day, and the Dodgers are already looking like Academy Award winners! Unfortunately, instead of things looking Up, they're resembling a Hurt Locker room, with Russell Martin being the first to go down with what was revealed last night as a pulled groin:

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Russell Martin probably will miss the start of the season after being diagnosed with a pulled right groin Sunday.

He is expected to be out of action for four to six weeks, after which he might need a minor league rehabilitation assignment before rejoining the Dodgers.

The Dodgers' season opener is April 5 at Pittsburgh, four weeks from Monday.

"I would guess [he'll miss it]," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "I think that was part of what made him continue to play and do other things after he felt a little [discomfort] the other day. He didn't feel like it was any big deal, and he was able to do everything."

Torre said Martin will be traveling back to L.A. for more tests.

A team doctor "looked at the MRI and it's a groin pull," Torre said. "He played on it a couple of days thinking it was just spring training aches and pains."

Torre said Martin still can do strengthening exercises for his upper body and taking batting practice was a possibility.

I am hoping that this isn't the portent that augurs a rash of bad things to come for the two-time NL West Champions. Martin, who sported a .280 BA and a 108 OPS+ in 2008, had a sub-par 2009 in which he batted a pedestrian .250 and had an OPS+ of 86. 2009 represented the first year that the luster had really fallen off the person who was arguably the star of the Dodgers' home-grown core, and Dodger fans were looking forward to his rebounding in 2010 following his signing a $5M one-year deal this off-season.

Then, Martin shows up to training camp 20 pounds heavier, and eyebrows were raised. Entering his 2009 season, Martin was all about yoga, being more limber and agile, and eating lean meats. Clearly, he had decided to change tack here:

There were heavy weights and low repetitions. Power cleans and dead-lifts. High carbs and higher protein. The result? More than 20 pounds of added muscle that has Martin a bit rounder in the face and hopefully stronger at the plate. [...]

Torre understood that Martin would want to change, well, something, after his difficult season.

"I've only been here a couple years, and Russell, in the two years I've been here, has been trying to find -- or, I guess, recapture -- what he was early on," Torre said. "Knowing Russell, he's very impatient. He's going to try different things."

Look, I'm all in favor of trying new things, and I commend Martin for his commitment to regimen, albeit a new one. But it's hard not to correlate his newfound heavier physique with potential for danger--and with this setback, the Dodgers have voiced some concerns as well, with GM Ned Colletti passively calling Martin out here:

"We can't tell anybody what's best for them," Colletti said. "They have to decide that on their own. Obviously, he decided that to come [into camp] in the condition he did is what was best for him. We were in communication with him throughout the winter, and then it went cold for a little bit of time. But he knows whats at stake here."

I'm crossing my fingers hoping that this isn't the start of the breakdown, for a Dodger team that didn't show any marked improvement through free agent signings this offseason. With 28-year-old AJ Ellis now vaulting into the starting role (coming off of 12 games of major league experience), we Dodger fans can only take solace in knowing that Piazza's ill-fated trade allowed us to find Paul LoDuca (before his decay), and LoDuca's departure allowed us to find Martin (and somewhere in there was Dioner Navarro and Angel Pena, at least one of whom I try to black out).

So maybe Martin's fragility will give birth to the newest Dodger catcher future star. I'd settle for someone who can hold the team while Martin--who has said that he'll still be in the weight room during his groin rehab, focusing on upper-body strength (see the last line in Steve Dilbeck's blogpost about how Martin appears preoccupied with gun size)--prepares for return. I mean, Joe Torre is confident Ellis can spell Martin, but what the heck, it's only a six-letter word, with pretty simple phonetic construction. Can Ellis be a major-league starter?

And in the meantime, someone else from that young corps had better step up and show some team leadership. Are you listening, Matt Kemp, James Loney, and Andre Ethier?


Josh S. said...

Ellis will be magic. Just you watch. We'll all have a good laugh about this on A.J. Ellis bobblehead night in 2011.

Seriously though, I hope he's good. I think the bulk (no pun intended) of Martin's problem is complacency. There hasn't been a legit threat to his spot, so he doesn't have to excel.

Kyle Baker said...

Co-starring Corey Wade, who had cortisone shot and will be out for 2 wks. Same issue that bothered him last year.

StolenMonkey86 said...

Groin pull? Should we ask how things are going with Russ' girlfriend?

Steve Sax said...

That's not the groin pull he was looking for.