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Russell Martin returns to L.A. with no bitterness toward Dodgers

DODGERS FYI

Now with the Pirates, catcher has good memories of his years with Dodgers. A broken hip in 2010 changed everything.

April 05, 2013|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Russell Martin departed the Dodgers for the Yankees and this season ended up with the Pirates.
Russell Martin departed the Dodgers for the Yankees and this season ended… (Justin K. Aller / Getty Images )

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Back at Dodger Stadium for the first time in more than two years, Russell Martin was pleasantly surprised to learn part of his legacy was still in the ballpark he used to call home.

On his way to the visiting clubhouse, Martin walked by a recently renovated hallway that exhibits awards won by former and current Dodgers. In one of the cases was a replica of a Gold Glove he won in 2007.

"It brought back some good memories," said Martin, now a 30-year-old catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. "You don't realize how awesome it is until you've been in other places."

BOX SCORE: Dodgers 3, Pirates 0

In 2007, he was the closest thing the Dodgers had to a franchise player, as he batted .293 with 19 home runs and 87 runs batted in. Told the Dodgers might have signed him to a long-term mega-deal had they already been owned by Guggenheim Baseball, Martin laughed and said, "Probably good for them they didn't."

Martin's production declined in the years that followed. After fracturing his hip in 2010, he wasn't offered a contract by the Dodgers and became a free agent.

"The way that it ended here was kind of sad for me," Martin said. "I was just starting to heat up, then I got hurt and that was it. It's been two years since then. It feels like a lot's happened."

He spent the next two seasons with the Yankees, hitting a combined 39 home runs and making an All-Star team. He signed a two-year, $17-million contract with the Pirates last winter.

Martin said he never had any ill will toward the Dodgers.

"There were no hard feelings because I got hurt," he said. "They weren't sure how I was going to come back. So I never really took offense to it."

That injury changed Martin's perspective.

"I feel like I'm enjoying it now a lot more than I ever did before," he said. "Before, I was just really, really serious about it. Not that I'm not serious now. I just take the time to enjoy it a little bit more. After I got hurt. I was like, 'I might as well have fun playing this game. It's not going to be around forever.'"

Billingsley set for return

Chad Billingsley is in line to make his season debut Wednesday in San Diego.

Billingsley pitched four innings Thursday for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga as part of a minor league rehabilitation assignment.

Because of the bruised index finger on his pitching hand, Billingsley had trouble throwing his curveball in recent weeks.

"It was a lot better," Billingsley said. "No issues with the finger."

Billingsley threw 72 pitches over four innings and was charged with four runs (three earned) and six hits. He walked three and struck out two.

Puig watch

Outfield prospect Yasiel Puig was two for three in his season debut for double-A Chattanooga. Puig also drew a walk, scored a run and stole a base in the Lookouts' 7-5 loss to Huntsville.

A Cuban defector who was signed to a $42-million contract last year, Puig batted .517 in spring training. He didn't draw a walk the entire exhibition season.

Learning that Puig struck out in his first at-bat Friday, General Manager Ned Colletti jokingly told President Stan Kasten, "We should have signed the pitcher."

Elsewhere in the minor leagues, Ted Lilly served up three home runs in six innings in the first game of his rehab assignment with Rancho Cucamonga. He was charged with five runs (four earned) and nine hits.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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