BRADENTON, Fla. -- Russell Martin's decision to withdraw from the World Baseball Classic has left Team Canada scrambling for a catcher 12 days before its opening game against Italy.
Not that Martin was going to catch for Canada, anyway. In fact, the inability to play his preferred position of shortstop is what moved him to ask out. Neither the Pirates nor Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt -- a former big league catcher -- were comfortable with the idea of Martin moonlighting at a different position.
"I feel sorry for [Team Canada], but sometimes you just have to look out for what's best for you," Martin said. "You have to make a personal choice. But I'm really sorry for how all this went down."
Chris Robinson, an eight-year Minor Leaguer without big league experience, was left as the only catcher on the roster for Team Canada, which will play in Pool D in Phoenix against Italy, Mexico and Team USA.
Although Pirates general manager Neal Huntington declined comment, deferring to Team Canada, the Pirates are certainly pleased by Martin's decision. By not taking a timeout from Bucs camp, Martin will have more time to familiarize himself with the pitching staff he inherited when he signed a two-year, $17 million contract as a free agent this winter.
"I simply didn't want to catch [in the Classic]. It's just too much grind," Martin said. "The catcher's out there the whole game, and it just takes your body so long to recover from catching 20 innings or so.
"This will allow me to stay and work here, get to know these guys. It's better for the team and for myself."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.