Dodgers' Martin finding his hitting stroke

Updated: May 12, 2010, 9:21 PM ET
By Tony Jackson | ESPNLosAngeles.com

PHOENIX -- On his way to a career-low seven home runs last season, Dodgers catcher Russell Martin didn't hit his fourth one until Aug. 20. He hit his fourth home run of 2010 in Tuesday night's win at Arizona, turning on a pitch over the inner half of the plate.

It might have been the strongest indication yet that Martin has recaptured whatever it was he was missing in 2009.

"His hands are working so well right now," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said before Wednesday night's game with the Diamondbacks. "He is using his hands so much more right now than he has been the last couple of years. Yesterday or the day before, there was an at-bat where he got ahead in the count and then all of a sudden, you saw that same, long swing of the bat and fouled the ball off. But he realized it himself, and he corrected it.

"Nobody has to tell him anymore because it feels so good when he does it the right way."

Martin is hitting .261 overall, and in addition to the four homers, he has only two doubles. But Torre likes what he sees of Martin's approach at the plate, and that is the main difference from the past two years when Martin suffered steady dropoffs in almost every major offensive category from 2007 to 2008 to 2009.

Martin was set to start his 14th consecutive game behind the plate Wednesday night. Despite Torre saying at the start of the season that Martin would get plenty of rest and probably wouldn't play day games after night games, he has played two such day games during that stretch. Torre said he had planned to rest Martin on Saturday night against Colorado with a day game to follow Sunday but that Martin talked him out of that.

"He is comfortable, and he feels he thrives on work," Torre said. "This weekend, he will get a day off, probably on Sunday."

Padilla's MRI normal

Right-hander Vicente Padilla, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since April 25 because of a nerve problem at the top of his right forearm, underwent a planned MRI exam Wednesday to gauge his progress. Dodgers trainer Stan Conte said the MRI showed everything was normal.

Padilla has started playing catch, but he still isn't expected to return to the active roster until at least early next month. There almost certainly will be a minor-league rehabilitation assignment sometime in the interim.

Broxton's lack of work

Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton has appeared in only 12 of the team's first 33 games. Moreover, only five of those appearances have come in save situations, with Broxton converting only three of those. But Torre said he isn't at all concerned Broxton isn't getting enough work to stay sharp.

"I am fine with him," Torre said. "He was warmed up [Monday] night, and I was really pleased that he didn't have to warm up [Tuesday] night."

The Dodgers had a 4-1 lead over the Diamondbacks through eight innings Monday night before blowing the game open with three in the ninth, negating the need to bring in the already-warmed-up Broxton. They scored seven runs in the eighth inning Tuesday, so Broxton never even had to start throwing.

Ortiz on track to start

Torre said Ramon Ortiz remains on track to make his first major league start in three years Friday night at San Diego despite the fact Ortiz was brought in from the bullpen on Tuesday. Ortiz faced only one batter, getting Conor Jackson to ground to short to strand the potential tying run on second in the seventh inning.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Tony Jackson

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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