Martin's fast start a refreshing sign

Updated: April 16, 2010, 9:32 PM ET
By Tony Jackson | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- Russell Martin entered play Friday leading the major leagues in on-base percentage at .545, which may or may not be a byproduct of the fact he usually hits eighth in the order. Whatever the reason, it's a refreshing sign for the Dodgers' catcher, who is coming off two disappointing seasons in a row offensively.

[+] EnlargeRussell Martin
Jason Bridge/US PresswireRussell Martin, who has stuggled offensively the last two seasons, has a .545 on-base percentage this season.

And while manager Joe Torre plans to move Martin around in the order with back-to-back day games coming this weekend -- he said Martin might even lead off when shortstop Rafael Furcal sits out one of those games -- Torre likes the approach Martin has been forced to take hitting ahead of the pitcher.

"I think a lot of times in Russell's case, it helps, because it makes Russell keep his swing short and quick," Torre said. "He is a better hitter when he uses the whole field instead of trying to think big and long. Last year, he got frustrated after he started off slowly, and then he started trying to hit home runs. I would like to keep him where he is, and by that I don't necessarily mean hitting eighth, but where he is in his approach to hitting."

Martin is hitting .364. Of his nine walks, only two have been intentional. Still, despite the high walk count, and despite the fact opposing pitchers tend to pitch around the eight-hole hitter with two outs and runners in scoring position to get to the weaker-hitting pitcher batting behind him, Martin denies that hitting eighth forces you to be more selective.

"You actually have to be more aggressive," he said. "But you do have to understand how they're going to pitch to you, for sure."

Bullpen restrictions

With the Dodgers' bullpen having taken on an unusually large work load in extra-inning games each of the previous two evenings, Torre said relievers Jeff Weaver, Ramon Ortiz and Jonathan Broxton all would be unavailable for Friday night's game with San Francisco. If the Dodgers needed a closer, Ramon Troncoso would get the call.

Kuo works out

Reliever Hong-Chih Kuo, who has been on the 15-day disabled list all season because of left-elbow soreness, worked out at Dodger Stadium on Friday. He is expected to make a second one-inning rehabilitation appearance for high Single-A Inland Empire on Sunday. Barring a setback, he then will fly with the Dodgers to Cincinnati on Monday and probably be activated Tuesday.

Ethier's numbers

Andre Ethier, whose RBI double ended Thursday night's game and gave the Dodgers a win over Arizona, is one of only two players since 1952 to have 10 walkoff hits over a three-year period. The other is Boston's David Ortiz, who had 10 walkoff hits from 2004 to 2006. Thanks for ESPN Stats and Information guru Mark Simon for that nugget.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Tony Jackson

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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