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Martinez expects to be club leader


Published: Wed, March 1, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


The veteran catcher has improved each of his three seasons with the Tribe.
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) -- The Cleveland Indians are looking to former Mahoning Valley Scrappers catcher Victor Martinez to provide the club with extras like leadership.
"He has the intangibles along with the tangibles in what he brings to us," manager Eric Wedge said.
Whether it's at spring training in March or in the dugout during a late-season game, Martinez stays busy offering congratulations, encouragement or whatever is needed. He visits the mound often during a game and usually pounds his fist in the pitchers chest before he departs.
"I love to play the game," Martinez said. "I love talking to my teammates and getting them going."
Has special hand shakes
Martinez has a special handshake for each teammate, ranging from a high-five, a low-five, a palm slap and some hand smacks that intentionally miss their target.
"His shake for me is like this," said Indians general manager Mark Shapiro, extending his hand in a traditional handshake. "I guess that's his business handshake."
Martinez, 27, has become one of the core players on a team whose win total has improved from 68 to 80 to 93 over the last three seasons. He has been the Indians regular catcher since midway through the 2003 season.
The switch-hitter batted .305 with 20 homers and 80 RBIs last season. He hit .283 with 23 homers and 108 RBIs in 2004.
"Victor is a very good offensive player," Wedge said. "You don't see many catchers who can put up those kind of numbers."
Doesn't like days off
Going into every season, Wedge plans on cutting down on playing time for Martinez so he can stay strong late in the season, but it doesn't always work that way.
"It's a lot easier to talk about it, but when you're putting it [the lineup] together, it's tough," Wedge said.
Martinez doesn't want to take days off.
"I like to play," he said. "I don't think about getting tired. I want to be out there all the time."
Wedge thinks Martinez' ability to call a game has improved since he first came to the big leagues in 2002.
Martinez threw out 25 of 121 runners trying to steal last season, in part because of the poor job Indians pitchers did in holding runners.
"I want to get better at that," he said. "I want to improve on my defense."
Notes
INF Ramon Vazquez homered off RHP Jason Davis in Wednesday's intrasquad game. ... C Kelly Shoppach added a two-run double and Martinez had an RBI single.
INF Brandon Phillips was hit on the hand by a Davis pitch, but wasn't injured. ... Travis Hafner, whose elbow problems have limited him to being a DH, played first base. Wedge hopes Hafner can play first in the interleague road games. ...The Indians extended the Player Development Contract with the Class A Kinston Indians of the Carolina League for two seasons through 2008. ... The Indians open exhibition play today against Houston. RHP Jake Westbrook will get the start. ... The Indians announced their April 7 home opener against Minnesota is sold out. ...The Indians signed 12 players to one-year contracts Wednesday: RHPs Fernando Cabrera, Fausto Carmona, Jason Davis, Edward Mujica and Kaz Tadano, LHP Rafael Perez, INFs Michael Aubrey and Andy Marte, CA/INF Ryan Garko and OFs Jason Dubois, Franklin Gutierrez, Brad Snyder.


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