Yankees sign catcher Russell Martin to one-year contract

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Moving on quickly after Cliff Lee turned them down, the Yankees “have agreed to terms on a contract with Russell Martin,” according to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. It’s believed to be a one-year deal, although the Yankees would also have Martin under team control in 2012 as an arbitration-eligible player.

Because of his fractured hip Martin passing a pre-signing physical exam is probably no sure thing, but assuming he does the Yankees beat out the Red Sox and Blue Jays to nab the two-time All-Star after he was non-tendered by the Dodgers.

If healthy Martin will be given every opportunity to serve as the Yankees’ primary catcher, with Jorge Posada spending the bulk of his time at designated hitter. Francisco Cervelli is in line to be the backup after starting often in place of Posada this year and the Yankees’ top prospect, Jesus Montero, is for now at least a catcher even if many people believe he’ll eventually move out from behind the plate.

Not so long ago Martin was one of the best all-around catchers in baseball, hitting .285 with a .373 on-base percentage and .433 slugging percentage in 427 games through age 25, but he’s batted just .249 with a .350 OBP and .330 SLG in the past two seasons while missing half of 2010 with the fractured hip that remains a question mark. Bouncing back is hardly guaranteed considering how hard the Dodgers rode Martin prior to the hip injury, but he’s still just 28 years old and would bring plenty of value to the table with his defense and on-base skills even if the rest of his game lags behind.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.