Russell Martin mask

Russell Martin blames ‘distractions’ for his poor play

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Russell Martin has a good explanation for why he isn’t any good anymore, and it’s not going to be very comforting to Dodgers fans.

Martin, a two-time All-Star catcher who signed a one-year, $4 million deal with New York Yankees this offseason, told Canada’s National Post that, more or less, he just hasn’t been trying very hard, and that’s why he managed just a .680 OPS over the last two seasons.

Why would a guy who makes millions of dollars just to play a game dog it? Because he was distracted, of course.

“I had some distractions that maybe led me not to have that same drive that I’ve had in the past,” he said. “Really, that’s all it is, honestly. I didn’t train quite as–I trained hard, but before, nobody trained as hard as I did.”

Martin wouldn’t explain what those distractions were, though Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times notes that there was concern “in some quarters that Martin was too much the Hollywood party guy.” Also, there was the matter of his distracting girlfriend.

Martin, who turns 28 next month, insists that his problems/distractions/slack attitude are behind him and he is looking forward to joining the Yankees. He said he chose New York over his hometown Toronto Blue Jays because the Yankees have a better chance to win the World Series, but I think it’s because the Yankees have stars who can party, date starlets and play hard, all at the same time. Jeter, A-Rod and the gang can teach him much.

“I think I’ve got a lot to prove,” he said, “especially with the last couple years that I’ve had.” He’s right about that.

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Yankees sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 17:  Jonathon Niese #49 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 17, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.

According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.

Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.

Tigers to give Omar Infante some work in center field this spring

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 11:  Omar Infante #4 of the Detroit Tigers follows through on an RBI single scoring Prince Fielder #28 during the eighth inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field  on September 11, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
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Veteran Omar Infante has spent the overwhelming majority of his career as an infielder, but the Tigers plan to give him some playing time in center field this spring. The Tigers’ center field situation is still murky and adding more versatility would increase Infante’s odds of making the roster.

Infante, 35, signed a minor league deal with the Tigers in December. He played 39 games for the Royals last season, batting .239/.279/.321 in 149 plate appearances while playing second base exclusively. Infante last played in the outfield in 2010 with the Braves, and last played center field specifically in ’09 with the Braves.

The Tigers currently have Mikie Mahtook, Tyler Collins, and JaCoby Jones at the top of their center field depth chart. It is not what one would call “optimal.”