ThrowinSmoke: Martin has his groove back

 C Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) has found his line drive stroke after a slow start at the plate as he learned a new pitching staff.

 C Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) has found his line drive stroke after a slow start at the plate as he learned a new pitching staff.

TORONTO — Russell Martin has finally found his groove in Toronto.

The Blue Jays catcher and Montreal product, who struggled at the plate to begin the season, has hit .520 in his last seven games to lift his batting average to a respectable .286. He’s also homered in four of the last five games, including Toronto’s 5-1 win over the New York Yankees on Wednesday night.

“Right now I’m getting good counts and getting good pitches to hit,” Martin told reporters after the game. “I know how hard this game is and right now I feel good up there.”

Martin signed a five-year, $82-million contract with the Blue Jays in the off-season. His lack of production early on — 1-for-24 to start the year — led some fans to question whether that move was a good one.

Since then, Martin has silenced those critics. He’s had at least one hit in 15 of the last 18 games.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
— Chris Colabello has made his presence known in Toronto after just two days in a Blue Jays uniform. Colabello, who was called up from triple-A on Tuesday, had a single and a double in his debut against New York that night and followed that up Wednesday with a 4-for-4 performance. If Colabello’s name sounds familiar to Canadian baseball fans, it’s because his three-run homer helped propel Italy to a surprising 14-5 victory over Canada at the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

— Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis was named the AL rookie of the month after batting .325 with a .393 on-base percentage and six home runs through April. The 24-year-old leads all rookies in hits (30), runs scored (20), doubles (seven) and RBIs (23). He’s also tied with Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson for the home run lead (seven) among first-year players.

— Bisons left-hander Daniel Norris, who was demoted to the triple-A club last week, lost his first start with Buffalo on Wednesday despite allowing just one run over 5 2/3 innings.

MAJOR LEAGUE CANADIANS
Reds first baseman Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) was ejected from Cincinnati’s 3-0 win over Philadelphia on Wednesday for throwing his batting gloves and helmet following a strikeout in the third inning. Votto likely faces a suspension after bumping umpire Chris Conroy when arguing the ejection.

“I feel like as a Major League player, I have a responsibility to be a good example for younger players, and making contact with an umpire is unacceptable,” Votto told reporters after the game.

“During this entire thing, that’s the one thing I feel very remorseful for. I think it was something that just crossed the line. Just because I have a verbal disagreement with someone, doesn’t make it OK to have physical contact with someone.”

Votto is batting .323 with seven home runs and 17 RBIs so far this season.

— Oakland 3B and former Blue Jay Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC) is batting .419 (13-for-31) over his last eight games.

— Rockies RP John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) will have a special guest throw out the first pitch at Coors Field on Friday. His two-year-old son Jameson, who was bit by a rattlesnake twice during spring training, will be doing the honours after spending much of the last two months recovering in hospitals in Phoenix and Denver. Jameson will throw the pitch to his father before the Rockies take on the Los Angeles Dodgers.

MINOR LEAGUE CANADIANS
— Bisons outfielder Dalton Pompey of Mississauga, Ont., picked up his first hit since his demotion to Buffalo, going 1-for-4 in Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to triple-A Durham Bulls on Wednesday. Pompey went hitless with one walk and one strikeout in two previous games.

— Durham (Tampa Bay) left-hander Scott Diamond (Guelph, Ont.) has won his last three starts after opening the season with two straight no-decisions. Diamond allowed two runs on four hits and a walk while striking out five batters in his last start on Sunday.

— Follow @throwinsmoke on Twitter

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Melissa Couto

My name is Melissa Couto. I'm a sports reporter-editor at The Canadian Press, where I've worked for the past two years. Mostly I work on the night desk, editing copy for print, online and broadcast, but I have been doing more and more writing recently. I also contribute to the Canadian Baseball Network, a website founded by renowned Toronto Sun columnist Bob Elliott.

 

I'm a graduate of Centennial College's sports journalism post-graduate program. Before that, I went to Western where I completed a BA and MA in American history (it's helped me impress people when we're watching Jeopardy). In all seriousness, my time at Western was valuable.  I walked away with a real passion for writing. When I took the post-grad program at Centennial, I learned to merge that love of writing with the love of sport that I've always had (particularly for baseball), and as they say, the rest is history.