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Martin shifts from catcher to start at third base

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PITTSBURGH -- After 500 consecutive defensive starts as a catcher (to exclude a handful of DH assignments), Russell Martin appeared at a new position in the Pirates' lineup Saturday night.

More correctly, he reappeared at an old position: third base, his original and, apparently, still favorite spot.

"I'm definitely excited but, for me, it's just another ball game," Martin said before taking the field against the Braves. "Fielding ground balls and making throws across the diamond is what I've done my whole life."

Drafted as an infielder in 2002 by the Dodgers, Martin stopped doing it for pay in his second Minor League season. Impressed with his hands, the Dodgers converted him to catching, selling it to him as a faster route to the Majors.

About a week and a half ago, manager Clint Hurdle encouraged Martin to take grounders at third base during pregame drills because "you don't know what's going to happen."

It happened Saturday night, with lefty Paul Maholm starting for Atlanta. Gaby Sanchez started at first, giving hot-hitting Garrett Jones a rest, and Martin did the same for Pedro Alvarez at third.

"It's kind of like riding the bike," Martin said. "Once you've done it and had the feel of catching ground balls -- it's there. I've been prepared my whole life to play third base. For me, it's just a natural position."

Martin's 2013 prelim at the hot corner consisted of switching there for the final four innings of Monday night's game against the Cardinals. He had only one chance in that game, spearing a line drive off Carlos Beltran's bat.

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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