For all the talk about the Yankees’ pitching, their catching also is a concern.
Scouts are growing increasingly critical of Russell Martin’s defense, and based on manager Joe Girardi’s comments to reporters Friday, journeyman Gus Molina seems likely to win the backup job.
Martin, one scout says, “has gotten worse each week — he’s not catching well and he’s not throwing well.” Two other scouts were less harsh in their assessment of Martin, but one said, “He hasn’t really excited anyone at all.”
Such is the case offensively as well.
Spring-training statistics are essentially worthless, but Martin — coming off two straight seasons of a sub-.700 OPS — is batting only .211/.326/.289.
Here’s the scary part: Martin, coming off surgery on his right knee, figures to carry a heavy workload in the early part of the season.
OPENING DAY COUNTDOWN
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and their rivals as the season approaches.
The Yankees are off the day after Opening Day, then play nine straight days. They then get another day off before playing six straight.
• Rays right-hander James Shields appears ready for a bounce-back season, and the team is excited about the potential of its left-handed relievers, Jake McGee and Cesar Ramos.
The Red Sox’s predominantly left-handed lineup will make it critical for AL East opponents to counter with quality left-handed pitching. J.P. Howell will give the Rays a third left-handed reliever if he makes a successful return from a shoulder injury.
• The Braves are more likely to trade right-hander Rodrigo Lopez than righty Kenshin Kawakami before Opening Day.
Lopez, who has a 3.86 ERA in 18 2/3 innings, is drawing interest from other clubs, but the Braves need not rush into a move.
While Yankees righties Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon can ask to be released if they are not on the Opening Day roster, Lopez does not have an out until June.
• The Reds do not sound overly concerned about Johnny Cueto, who has inflammation in his shoulder, or Homer Bailey, who has an impingement. Both pitchers will start the season on the DL, but it’s possible that both could pitch if the team was in a pennant race, one club official says.
Still, the Reds’ enviable rotation depth is rapidly diminishing. Righty Bronson Arroyo, dealing with a lingering cough, is awaiting the results of blood tests; he told reporters that doctors want to rule out Valley Fever, the condition that sidelined Conor Jackson for much of 2009.
Righties Mike Leake and Sam LeCure will replace Cueto and Bailey, respectively. Leake has allowed 34 baserunners in 151/3 innings this spring.
• Righty Mat Latos, the Padres’ Opening Day starter, was scratched from his start Saturday due to an inflamed bursa sac in his throwing shoulder.
The Padres will have a better feel for his condition Saturday morning, once they determine whether he can play catch.
• Luis Castillo ended his 0-for-8 start by going 1-for-2 with two walks Friday, but prior to that game a scout expressed skepticism that Castillo would make the Phillies, saying the veteran’s bat looked slow.
The Phillies plan to keep infielder Michael Martinez, their Rule 5 pick from the Nationals. Squeezing Martinez onto the roster will be much less of a problem if Wilson Valdez is the Opening Day second baseman.
• A scout says of Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek: “He’s throwing better than I’ve seen him throw in the last couple of years.”
The same scout says Jarrod Saltalamacchia is “throwing OK, but is not the greatest receiver.”
• The reigning ACC Player of the Week is Georgia Tech freshman center fielder Kyle Wren, the son of Braves general manager Frank Wren.
Kyle, 5-foot-9 and 158 pounds, leads the ACC with a .477 batting average, 41 hits and 27 runs.
Just think: If Kyle chooses Scott Boras as his agent, Frank could become the first GM in history who is unable to sign his own son.
• Finally, with right-hander Braden Looper retiring, the battle for the final spot on the Cubs' pitching staff is down to right-handers Carlos Silva, Marcos Mateo and Casey Coleman.
Silva, guaranteed $11.5 million, would seem unlikely to be released; the Cubs probably would want to give him one more chance in the bullpen at that salary.
Then again, club officials have said they would open with the best team. A decision is expected by the end of the weekend, if not sooner.
— Ken Rosenthal