BRADENTON, Fla. -- Russell Martin still needs to get his bat working in regular-season mode. His fire, however, is already in midseason form.
That should help explain how the Pirates catcher managed the near impossible Sunday: Not only getting ejected from a Spring Training game, but getting the thumb in the top of the first inning.
Home-plate umpire Chad Fairchild tossed Martin after the catcher began arguing balls and strikes, standing up for starter Chris Leroux, who was in the midst of a nightmarish eight-run inning and getting little help from his defense or Fairchild's strike zone.
"I'm obviously not going to get in the umpire's face," Leroux said, "so I'm glad [Martin] noticed the same things I did. He had my back. Those balls did seem like strikes to me, and there's a big difference between 1-0 and 0-1 [counts]."
"I don't expect anybody to be perfect, but I feel like when you try to communicate, there needs to be some rapport," Martin said of Fairchild. "I felt like it wasn't there today. I know he's a good guy. In the heat of the moment, I probably let my emotions get the best of me and I'm sure he did, too.
"People may go, 'How can you get thrown out of a Spring Training game?' But I treat it like a regular-season game. I love being out there competing."
It is one of the things the Pirates love about Martin, who signed a two-year, $17 million deal with Pittsburgh as a free agent.
"We got him for a number of reasons," manager Clint Hurdle said, "and one of them is his passion, his energy behind the plate, and that was evident."
With left-hander Brian Matusz going for Baltimore, Martin missed some at-bats and opportunities to escape a 1-for-15 slump. He also is 3-for-30 overall in Grapefruit League play, but unconcerned.
"I feel good. I've been having solid contact," Martin said. "I feel aggressive, and that's huge for me. When I'm not passive and eager to swing the bat, that's when I know I'm where I need to be. Now it's just a matter of getting more reps. Today, I just couldn't get them."
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.