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Martin has no answer for slide

September 17, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- Russell Martin said that he is aware his numbers are down from last season but that he doesn't know what to make of the decline.

"I can't say I've been doing it a certain way for 10 years," Martin said. "I'm doing the best that I can. At least we're winning games."

Martin is hitting .276 with 12 home runs and 64 runs batted in. Last season, he batted .293 with 19 home runs and 87 RBIs.

Martin hit leadoff for the 15th time in his last 17 games Tuesday night, and though he is batting only .196 with no homers and seven RBIs in that spot, Manager Joe Torre said Martin has looked like a more patient hitter atop the order.

A .294 hitter at the All-Star break, Martin is batting .246 in the second half, his production tailing off over the final months as it did a year ago. He said that he feels fine physically, pointing to the five bases he has stolen as the leadoff hitter as evidence.

Martin said he also wasn't concerned about his defensive statistics, which show that he has thrown out only 17.9% of potential base stealers (14 of 78), down from 28.7% (33 of 115 last season). He noted that fewer teams were running against the Dodgers this season, and that those that do tend to so in favorable counts.

"I don't feel like they're stealing on me, per se," he said.

Cautious with Kuo

No chances are being taken with Hong-Chih Kuo, as the team's medical staff is forbidding him from playing catch for at least a couple of days.

Kuo acknowledged that his left elbow, which has survived four surgeries, has hurt him all season.

"After four surgeries, there's always going to be something," he said. "But it was good enough to pitch."

Kuo's latest discomfort was probably the result of a three-day stretch from Aug. 30 to Sept. 1, when he pitched four innings over two games. Since then, he has pitched only two times.

Is trio bound for Hall?

Torre and former Dodgers Gil Hodges and Maury Wills are among the 10 former players who will be considered for election to the Hall of Fame in 2009 by the Veterans Committee. Results will be announced at the winter meetings Dec. 8.

"I've been there before and I don't remember getting any more hits," said Torre, a former NL most valuable player who came closest to being inducted into the Hall of Fame when he received 22.2% of votes in 1997 on the regular ballot cast by baseball writers.

Torre is supposed to be judged only on his accomplishments as a player.

Nice timing

When September call-up A.J. Ellis made his major league debut by catching in the ninth inning Monday night, his father was in the stands at PNC Park. Ellis' parents live in Kentucky, but his father, Gary, happened to be in the area because he had a business meeting in Ohio the next day.

"It was a last-minute thing," Ellis said. "He called me up and said he'd be there. The fact that he was here for my major league debut made it that much more special."

Short hops

Andre Ethier rejoined the Dodgers from a three-day absence to tend to the birth of his first child and was back in the lineup. Ethier's return to the lineup didn't send Juan Pierre to the bench, as Torre opted to sit a slumping Matt Kemp instead. . . . Andruw Jones is back in his suburban Atlanta home to rest his irritated right knee. . . . Jason Schmidt, who underwent minor surgery on his shoulder last week, has started physical therapy in Arizona. . . . Casey Blake, who was out of the lineup the last two days because of tightness in his lower back, started at third base.


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