The Yankees' Russell Martin hits a home run against the...

The Yankees' Russell Martin hits a home run against the Boston Red Sox during the seventh inning. It was his second home run of the game. (April 9, 2011) Credit: AP


While getting ready for a Grapefruit League game at Steinbrenner Field a few weeks ago, Russell Martin ran into his old Dodgers manager. The two discussed the experience of being a Yankee.

"He said it's just a whole different ballgame," Martin said of his chat with Joe Torre. " 'You'll see. You'll be fine. You'll enjoy it.'

"I love the intensity. It's really what I'm all about. It's going to be a fun year for me."

A fun first eight games, for sure. Martin blasted two homers over Fenway Park's Green Monster Saturday, powering the Yankees to a 9-4 win over Boston and helping his team on a day when starting pitcher Ivan Nova couldn't last even the requisite five innings for a victory.

Compared to Boston (1-7), the Yankees (5-3) look like a team with all the answers. Consistent with the Red Sox's early woes, it turns out that Martin negotiated with both teams during his free agency this past winter. He went to the Yankees because they offered him a better deal.

That doesn't mean they lack questions to answer, first and foremost regarding their starting rotation. Their signing of Carlos Silva, recently jettisoned by the Cubs, to a minor-league deal exemplifies their concerns about their pitching. Especially given how horribly Phil Hughes' first two starts have gone.

So they should feel thankful that Martin, who played in only 97 games for the Dodgers last year, has paid immediate dividends with a .345 on-base percentage and .679 slugging percentage. His three homers tie him with Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez for second on the team, behind Mark Teixeira's four, and only Teixeira (10) has more than Martin's eight RBIs.

His defense has been strong, too, and Martin has quieted chatter about returning Posada behind home plate. He has started every game, as backup Gustavo Molina represents a significant downgrade. Joe Girardi put Molina in his lineup Wednesday but the game was rained out.

"I'm not going to kill him," former catcher Girardi said of Martin. "I understand what happens to a catcher if you kill him. You lose your legs and then you don't have a whole lot left. We've been kind of blessed with where our off days have fallen. I've been able to play him every day so far."

When Francisco Cervelli (fractured left foot) returns from the disabled list, Girardi will have incentive to rest Martin more. Even Martin, sidelined by a hip injury last year, sounded realistic when asked about becoming a 140-game catcher again.

"Well, it's April. I feel good right now," he said. "You'll have to talk to me in August and September. But right now I feel good. I've got a good in-season program I'm doing with our strength coach [Dana Cavalea]."

Martin said he slacked off in previous offseasons before the Dodgers got his attention by not tendering him a contract in December. "My workout program in the offseason wasn't as intense as it was this past year," he said, which probably won't thrill his old team. "I finally got my work ethic back and got back serious. It's paying off right now."

The Yankees, who are paying Martin $4 million, have to feel good about their investment. It gives them more time and resources, which they need, to work on their starting rotation.