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Martin not fazed by criticism over World Baseball Classic

The Canadian Press

3/8/2013 12:08:12 PM

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Russell Martin is well aware of the criticism over his decision to skip the World Baseball Classic.

He knows fellow Canadian players like Brett Lawrie and Justin Morneau don't approve.

The thing is, he simply doesn't care.

"If people want to get personal about it, I'd tell them to worry about things they can control in their own lives," Martin said in an interview Thursday. "I'm just worrying about my health because that's first and foremost."

Since developing shoulder inflammation during his first spring training game in a Pirates uniform on Feb. 23, the former Yankee has been unable to catch for the team that signed him to a two-year, $17-million contract this off-season.

For that reason, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle respects his catcher's choice.

"At times, Russell hasn't even been able to throw," Hurdle said. "It would be pretty hard for him to get behind the plate for Team Canada and take on the workload that they would expect from him."

Martin, whose workouts have gone well this week, could play as early as Saturday.

By then, Canada will be playing its second game of the WBC --against Mexico at Chase Field in Phoenix -- and Martin wasn't interested in catching in the tournament anyway.

Drafted by the Dodgers as an infielder in 2002, the 30-year-old made wanted to suit up as Canada's shortstop, a position he felt he could play while his body gradually prepares for the season's full-time catching duties.

"Go ahead and get behind the plate for nine innings and then we'll have a conversation about what's harder to do," said Martin, who hasn't played shortstop since his first year of minor league ball.

Unwilling to allow their recent investment to test his infield abilities on another team, the Pirates killed the idea. But Martin still confidently insists he's Canada's best shortstop.

"That's my opinion," the Montreal native said. "If I didn't think that, why would I even consider playing shortstop? It's not the most humble thing to say, but that's what I believe."

Cale Iorg, who learned to play shortstop alongside former Blue Jay Alex Gonzalez while his father Garth coached in Toronto, will start at that position for Canada. Rather than comment directly on Martin's claim, the 27-year-old Tigers prospect took the high road, saying it was "unfortunate" for Canada to lose a "solid major league player."

But Martin doesn't necessarily see it that way.

Praising Chris Robinson, who'll take over as Canada's starting catcher, the Montreal native is confident that his country can succeed without his major league presence, even if he has 885 more games of big-league experience over his replacement.

"Chris is a good catcher," Martin said. "He's caught most of the pitchers that are on that team. There are a lot of guys that are going to do Canada proud and hopefully they have a better showing than we did last time. Besides, I wasn't there in 2006 and they did fine."

Though Martin insists he'll be cheering on his countrymen from his spring training camp in Bradenton, he admittedly doesn't feel the same type of patriotism that many Canadians do, especially when it comes to baseball.

"I was born in Canada and I'm proud to be where I'm from, but if I was born in Australia or somewhere else, I'd be proud of that too," he said. "I'm just proud to be part of the world."