WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - Victor Martinez is an All-Star catcher because of his bat, but the Cleveland Indians love his defense, too.
"What he can do behind the plate far exceeds what he can do for us at the plate," manager Eric Wedge said. "You're talking about handling 130 pitches as opposed to three or four at-bats a game."
As a switch-hitter with a career .301 batting mark and averaging 21 homers and 99 RBIs the past four years, Martinez's defense gets overlooked - unless opponents run wild on the bases.
That happened in 2006, when Martinez threw out only 14 percent (16 of 116) of base stealers. Last season, he stopped 30 of 100, the third-best mark in the AL.
"I owe that to my pitchers," the soft-spoken catcher said of the staff's collective ability to hold runners close. "They improved 100 percent. I worked on some things, but the results were all about them."
Wedge, a former catcher, respectfully holds a slightly different opinion.
"Victor is very good and keeps getting better," he said. "It's been a consistent climb and he's earned a great of confidence and respect from all the pitchers."
C.C. Sabathia credits Martinez for helping him develop into the 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner.