Shortstop is the toughest position to fill out when a north-of-the-border baseball nut fills out an all-Canadian starting nine.
Whatever the reason, Canada's best diamond talent is concentrated around pitching, power-hitting corner infielders and outfielders who invariably hit left-handed and some catchers. So Russell Martin, the former New York Yankees catcher, has a novel suggestion. The current free agent has offered to doff his catching gear and play shortstop for Team Canada. It's part of reinventing himself as a catcher turned catcher/utility infielder.
From David Waldstein:
Canada has two major league catchers on its current roster, including Martin and Oakland's George Kottaras, who is from Scarborough, Ontario. But it does not have a major league shortstop.
"If it's something that would help the team, I am willing to do it," Martin said Saturday in a telephone interview from Montreal. "I told Greg [Hamilton, Baseball Canada's director of national teams] I want to do it, and he said he's open to it."
... He has played a total of 77 1/3 innings at second and third in the majors.
But shortstop is the infield position Martin actually thinks he can play best. He grew up in Montreal idolizing Ozzie Smith and, during batting practice the past two seasons, he would often take ground balls at short along with Derek Jeter and the other Yankees infielders. (New York Times)
CBS Sports' Eye On Baseball blog called it "a pretty strange request." It makes sense inasmuch as Martin, 29, believes the burden of catching full-time will keep him from hitting well enough to stay in the majors. He OPS'd only .713 for while catching 128 games for the Yankees, a far cry from his early-career numbers. As he told Montreal's La Presse, which had the first report on this story, "My goal at the Classic will show the world that I can do it," referring to becoming a part-time infielder.
There are catchers who convert to first or third base. There are shortstops who get switched to second or third. Catcher and shortstop? The twain never meet.
It is a position where Canada is deficient; I had to Google it to remember that Chris Barnwell (30 career MLB at-bats) was Canada's shortstop in the 2009 WBC. (He batted leadoff and went 0-for-7 in two games.) At the WBC qualifier in Germany, Canada's shortstops consisted of Jonathan Malo and Sean Jamieson. Malo played as high as Triple-A but is now playing for the independent Quebec Capitales; the 23-year-old Jamieson is an Arizona Diamondbacks farmhand who has yet to reach Double-A ball.
So yes, seeing if an established major leaguer can play out of position in a short tournament might worth a shot.
(Stick tap: @Hawerchuk.)
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
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