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Sabathia on Martinez: ‘I definitely believe in him’

05.08.10 at 6:03 am ET
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Victor Martinez was supposed to have the night off on Friday. But a sixth-inning injury to Jason Varitek necessitated Martinez’ entry into the game in the top of the seventh frame.

Martinez continued his May surge at the dish. He went 2-for-2, singling sharply in both of his at-bats, and is now amidst a modest five-game hitting streak that has brought respectability to his season. After hitting .238/.307/.325/.632 with five extra-base hits in April, he is now at .360/.407/.560/.967 in May.

Of late, he is making it appear that questions about whether his looming free agency is affecting his performance might be misguided. Of course, at least one player already felt certain that Martinez would not allow questions about his future to cloud his 2010 season.

“Not a chance. No. I don’t think so at all,” Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia – who first encountered Martinez in 1999 when the two were teammates in the New York-Penn League – said of the possibility that his close friend could be affected by his uncertain contract status. “He got off to a slow start, but you look at his numbers at the end of the year, they’re going to be just like they have been every year. He’ll hit. That’s one thing you can count on him doing – he’s going to hit.”

Sabathia also said that concerns about Martinez’ defense were misguided. He noted that Martinez faced questions in Cleveland about whether he should remain at catcher, particularly after a 2006 season in which he threw out just 18 percent of would-be base stealers.

The catcher responded by working tirelessly. The next year (2007, when Sabathia threw to Martinez in 32 of 34 starts en route to a Cy Young), Martinez ended up throwing out 32 percent of attempted base thieves.

“He had a tough year [in 2006]. People said maybe he shouldn’t be catching,” recalled Sabathia. “He worked his butt off all offseason, came back in and was great. He was great that year. He’s one of those guys who you can’t tell him that he can’t do something, because he’s going to work to prove you wrong.

“I don’t see him having a problem getting behind the plate and catching anybody,” Sabathia added. “I definitely believe in him.”

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