VERO BEACH, Fla. (AP) -Russell Martin is the first to admit he's got a stubborn, hardheaded streak.
It's not necessarily a bad thing, since that approach helped him become one of baseball's finest catchers in his first full big-league season with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But Martin realizes it's not always the way to go.
Spring training has only just begun, and Martin already figures he'll be trying to talk new Dodgers manager Joe Torre into starting at least a portion of the few games he'll be given off.
``I probably will, because I want to play,'' Martin said Saturday. ``I've got to realize there are 162 games a season. I just keep pushing, that's the way I've been my whole life. It's hard changing that.''
Torre knows all about managing an All-Star catcher, having had Jorge Posada with the Yankees. He realizes what he has in Martin.
a day off. He's very important to this ballclub, and not only the offense aspect. The pitchers trust him.
``I'd like to give him one day off a week. He wants to play.''
The 25-year-old Martin became the Dodgers' starting catcher when he was called up from the minors and made his big league debut on May 5, 2006. He wound up hitting .282 with 10 homers and 65 RBIs in 121 games as a rookie.
Last year, he hit .293 with 19 homers, a team-leading 87 RBIs and a big league-leading 21 stolen bases for catchers in 151 games. Martin became just the third catcher to win the NL Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards in the same year, joining Gary Carter and Benito Santiago, and was a starter in the All-Star game.
Nevertheless, he was bummed out at season's end, and not just because the Dodgers lost 11 of their last 14 games to fall out of postseason contention.
He felt partly responsible for the slide because he thought he wore down in the late going.
``It was like a slowly downward slope,'' Martin said. ``August and September, I didn't maintain as well as I thought I should. We're professional athletes, it's our job to be prepared. We're supposed to be in as good a shape as we possibly can.''
To that end, Martin set about making changes in the offseason, and he believes it paid off.
hletic. I feel balanced, I feel strong in the right places.''
Martin spent several weeks at Athletes' Performance Institute in Tempe, Ariz.
``It's a workout place, you want to do it the right way,'' he said. ``It's really good for position players.''
He also intends to change his in-season routine.
``I've got a good buddy, my personal trainer, he's the one that's going to wake me up in the morning, get my butt out of bed,'' Martin said. ``I'd like to work out about 11, get a good workout in. To me, that's just the smart thing to do. That's going to help me through the year.
``When I'm home, I'm going to get that done three days a week, at least.''
And when the Dodgers are on the road, Martin said he'll pick and choose his spots to go to the gym.
For now, Martin said he's working to improve in certain areas.
``I always think I can do better. There's so much to learn about baseball, about yourself,'' he said. ``Knowing your weaknesses is probably the most important thing in anything. There are little things. I want to tweak my pickoff throws to first, I want to be more consistent with my throws to second, I want to make sure the pitchers stay in line out there. It's just little stuff.
``I just want to win. We've got the team for it. Now's the time to get focused and ready. We've got to make sure our mind-sets are going in the right direction.''
Dodgers hitting coach Mike Easler said what he likes best about Martin is his hunger to learn and improve.
``He's never satisfied, he knows there's more,'' Easler said. ``He wants to be the best. He can run, he can catch, he knows how to play the game. And he's very humble.
``He's open for improvement. That's all a coach can ask for. You don't get it until you retire. Even then, you don't get it.''
As might be expected with his personality, Martin arrived early to spring training. A day before pitchers and catchers reported, he ran into Torre at a local restaurant, introduced himself, and the two spoke.
``He really seems like a really smart, honest guy,'' Martin said. ``He knows exactly what he's doing, he's got that confidence. He's calm, he might give us what we need.
``Sometimes I'm not calm. He might give me what I need.''

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