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Pirates notebook: Production, not power, drives Martin this year

| Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, 7:15 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Pirates catcher Russell Martin connects on a pitch during batting practice Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Christopher Horner
Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens throws a bullpen session at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Christopher Horner
Pirates catcher Russell Martin exits the batting cage Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Christopher Horner
Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez works out during rundown drills Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Christopher Horner
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen takes off during baserunning drills Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Christopher Horner
Pirates outfielder Starling Marte waits to take batting practice Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Christopher Horner
Pirates infielder Josh Harrison takes his lead off second base during baserunning drills Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Christopher Horner
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen tosses his helmet during drills Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Christopher Horner
Pirates fans Jeff and Luke Schultheis of Shaler get a closer view of the fields at Pirate City with team president Frank Coonelly on Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, in Bradenton, Fla. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

BRADENTON, Fla. — Russell Martin's batting average nosedived the past two seasons when he played for the New York Yankees. But his power surged; he smacked 18 homers in 2011 and a career-best 21 last season.

“The Yankees are a home run-hitting team. That's their attitude,” Martin said. “But I'm not that type of hitter. Maybe I got too power-happy. I've always been good at contact. I can put the ball in play as much as anybody in the game. But when you take a power swing, you try to do too much. You can roll over balls and strike out a lot.”

Last year, Martin hit .211 and fanned once every 4.4 at-bats. Manager Clint Hurdle said it was clear Martin had changed his approach — and perhaps not for the best.

“Yes, he hit some homers, but he'll be the first to tell you he's not happy with the overall offensive numbers,” Hurdle said. “There's a better hitter in there, a more consistent hitter in there.”

As a rookie in 2006 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Martin batted .282 and struck out once in every 7.3 at-bats.

“He got everybody's attention,” Hurdle said. “He was hitting the ball from line to line, he was hitting balls out of the ballpark, and when he got on base he was quicker than you anticipated. He was an athletic package.”

“This year, I'm not going to worry about home runs,” Martin said. “My perspective is all about trying to be productive.”

BP skipped, but not fundamentals

There were no bullpen sessions or live batting practice Monday. Instead, the Pirates focused on fielding and baserunning drills.

“I was very pleased with ... all the baserunning,” Hurdle said. “We did all the challenges on base — a straight steal, hit and run, dirtball read, squeeze play. When we took it to the rundowns it was assorted pickoffs, throws to pickoff men, balls captured in the infield, shrinking the distance, making quick, efficient throws to get outs.

“We had real runners in, so it was more real-time than the old, traditional way with coaches on the bases. They're easier to catch than the players. I walked away with a very good feeling.”

Burnett, Karstens close to pitching BP

Right-handers A.J. Burnett and Jeff Karstens might be ready to throw their first sessions of live batting practice. Both are scheduled to pitch Tuesday.

Shaler father, son get Bradenton bonus

Jeff Schultheis of Shaler and his 9-year-old son, Luke, were guests of president Frank Coonelly on Monday in camp. Coonelly met the Schultheises at the airport on their way to Florida and, after finding out they are Pirates fans, offered to give them a private tour of Pirate City. Coonelly showed them around the facility, guided them through the clubhouse and sat with them and chatted in a dugout during workouts.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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