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Back behind plate, Martin says shoulder feels great

Pirates catcher praises Cole, club's No. 1 pitching prospect, after strong outing

Back behind plate, Martin says shoulder feels great play video for Back behind plate, Martin says shoulder feels great

SARASOTA, FLA. -- Scouting report, courtesy of Gerrit Cole, on Russell Martin, who on Sunday returned behind the plate after dealing for two weeks with a sore shoulder:

Martin looked fine throwing the ball 60 feet, six inches -- back to the mound to Cole, who didn't give his batterymate any other opportunities to throw.

Cole breezed through the first four innings -- with one brief glitch -- to earn the Pirates' 5-2 win over the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium. `

The first man to reach base against Cole, Manny Machado on a one-out walk in the third, quickly jogged home on Ryan Flaherty's ensuing homer. And the only other Orioles player to get on during Cole's stint, catcher Matt Wieters on a leadoff aingle in the fourth, wasn't about to go anywhere anyway, then was the lead victim on Chris Davis' double-play grounder.

"A good day's work. Pretty efficient," said Cole after a win that ended a few minutes before the 1-A of Pittsburgh's vaunted tandem of young pitchers -- Jameson Taillon -- took the mound in Phoenix for Canada against the United States in the World Baseball Classic.

But this was one time the Bucs' No. 1 prospect had to share the spotlight with Martin, the team's No. 1 purchase.

Batting leadoff to give him an extra turn, Martin went 0-for-2 with a walk but, of course, nobody cared about the at-bats of the recipient of the richest free-agent contract (two years for $17 million) in the Pirates' modest spending history. They wanted to see the arm, but for that you had to be around way before first pitch. That test came only during the team's infield practice.

"And I felt great, throwing to second," said Martin, following his return to catching after two weeks off with a sore shoulder. "I felt like I was throwing 80 percent, but I don't feel like I ever need to throw 100, because I'm not as accurate when I do. But felt good, man, no setbacks, no flareups in the shoulder. I'm not even taking Advil. I feel 100 percent -- and felt like I could've thrown 100 percent if I needed to."

At one point, he might've been even trying to influence Cole into making that necessary.

"I like his attitude out there. I like his competitive spirit. And I like his fastball. A four-seamer and a two-seamer -- I like the way he can throw them into all quadrants [of the strike zone]. He's got a good feel out on the mound, a plan, and is able to execute. Outstanding."
-- Russell Martin, on Gerrit Cole


After walking Machado and running the count to Flahery to 2-and-0, Cole got a mound visit from Martin, who reminded him that, already leading, 4-0, he needed to just concentrate on the hitter.

"My hunch was he was overemphasizing the runner," Martin said. "I went out there and said, 'Look, we're up by four. It's a situation where you want to get outs.'"

Martin wouldn't have been trying to avert Cole's attention from the runner so Machado might take off and test his arm, would he?

"I love it when guys try to steal off me," Martin said with a grin, without any implication that is what was going through his mind there. "Because if they do, odds are they are going to get thrown out, then they won't go any more.

"So I want people to test me early. I love controlling traffic out there."

Martin did not get to play traffic cop this time. He came out of the game when Cole did, giving both plenty of time to reflect on a mutually big day.

"It was good throwing to Russ. Hopefully, I'll get to work with him a lot more," Cole said, knowing full fell that would happen when he is in the big leagues, not merely big league camp. "I'm trying to develop a relationship with Michael [McKenry] and Russ, so the game starts to flow easier. So they know what I like to throw and when, so I don't have to think out there, just trust what they want."

Cole, at only 22, does well in the thinking department, Martin stressed.

"He's a smart kid," the veteran catcher said. "Of course he's got ability like not a lot of people have, but he's pitching out there with his mind. He's pretty polished for a young guy.

"I like his attitude out there. I like his competitive spirit. And I like his fastball," Martin added with a twinkle in his eyes. "A four-seamer and a two-seamer -- I like the way he can throw them into all quadrants [of the strike zone]. He's got a good feel out on the mound, a plan, and is able to execute. Outstanding."

That one glitch? The batterymen agreed: The hitter was locked and loaded, knowing Cole wanted to get back on track with a see-me fastball.

"I fell behind and had to make a good pitch. I did -- but [Flaherty] was on the fastball all day," Cole said.

"And it was a good pitch, a four-seem fastball," Martin said. "Just probably in Flaherty's nitro zone."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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