PITTSBURGH -- Russell Martin didn't start Wednesday night, and also figures to stay on the bench Thursday afternoon when the Bucs wrap their four-game series with San Diego. Sitting out consecutive starts for the first time since early May would have nothing to do with Martin's shrinking average -- well, except in a roundabout way.
"I want him ready for Cincinnati," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, citing the weekend series against the co-NL Central contenders. "No doubt, the grind behind the plate is challenging him in the batter's box. I want to give him the appropriate rest he needs to get back in balance."
Martin's average has been in steady decline since Aug. 10, and reached .229 on Tuesday night with an 0-for-4 that made him 4-for-40 since Sept. 2.
Yet Hurdle still pegs his plus-minus score in the positive. There is no telling how many extra bases and runs Martin has prevented with his defensive athleticism -- although Hurdle recently requested an analysis that might provide that answer.
"On the average he's blocked 8-10 pitches a night, since Opening Day. The job he has done behind the plate has been a difference maker," Hurdle said. "It's hard to find another catcher who does as much dirt work as he's done. His work on dirt balls is so far ahead of everyone I've ever seen."
Martin has also thrown out an MLB-high 29 runners attempting to steal.
John Buck was behind the plate Wednesday night, for Charlie Morton. Rookie Tony Sanchez will most likely catch Gerrit Cole on Thursday. Sanchez has often been paired with Francisco Liriano, whose next start will come in Friday's series opener against the Reds. Hurdle will want Martin engaged in that.