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Pirates notebook: Martin decides to pass on WBC

| Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, 5:45 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Chris Leroux delivers against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, in Port Charlotte, Fla.
Christopher Horner
Pirates catcher Russell Martin smiles while talking with the media outside the clubhouse at Pirate City on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, in Bradenton, Fla. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

BRADENTON, Fla. — Catcher Russell Martin reversed course and told Team Canada officials he will not play in the World Baseball Classic.

When he signed with the Pirates in November, Martin said he hoped to play shortstop for his native country. But he had trouble convincing others he could change positions for the tournament.

“Basically, the only one who believed I could play shortstop was me,” Martin said. “The Pirates weren't comfortable with it, and I don't think Team Canada was comfortable with it.”

By staying with the Pirates, Martin will have more time to get in sync with the pitching staff.

“I'm going to feel better being here and catching my guys,” Martin said. “Of course, there is a feeling I might be letting down my Canadian teammates.”

Martin still hopes to play shortstop in a game.

“It's something I know I have the ability to do,” Martin said. “But my job here is to catch. Whatever they want me to do, I'll help out. I understand the fundamentals of the game at pretty much every position.”

Leroux heads for WBC

In a few days, right-hander Chris Leroux will leave Pirates camp to pitch for Canada. Leroux started his pre-spring training routine a bit earlier but otherwise hasn't changed his schedule.

“Rushing, trying to catch up or doing things you normally wouldn't do is not beneficial,” Leroux said.

Leroux is bidding for a bullpen job with the Pirates, but he will be in Canada's starting rotation. However, his WBC outings will be limited to three innings.

“It's long enough to get a loss, but not enough to qualify for a win,” he said. “Hey, that's not fair.”

Quicken the pace

On Monday, RHP James McDonald worked at a noticeably quicker pace out of the windup. He hopes having a greater emphasis on that will help him avoid the type of slump he endured in the second half of last season.

“I wanted to have a good pace, not sit around too long on the mound,” McDonald said.

“Know what you want to do, and deliver the pitch. It slows up your defense when you're out there sitting.

“If I can keep the game going, pitches coming a little faster, my guys will be on their toes, and I'll be better.”

Karstens throws

Right-hander Jeff Karstens (biceps tightness) threw 15 fastballs off the mound and will toss another side session in a couple of days. He's still at least a week away from being game-ready.

Some empty seats

A crowd of 5,626 — 2,875 shy of a sellout — came to McKechnie Field on Sunday for the Pirates' spring home opener.

Still, that would've been good for a full house before the recent renovations that added outfield bleachers and boardwalk seating.

Twins on tap

The Pirates will take a two-hour bus ride to Fort Myers, Fla., on Monday to play the Twins.

Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and Starling Marte will stay behind to work out at Pirate City.

Among those scheduled to pitch against Minnesota are Jeanmar Gomez, Phil Irwin, Erik Cordier, Leroux, Kris Johnson and Kyle Waldrop.

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

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