Umpire John Hirschbeck and New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin...

Umpire John Hirschbeck and New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin in the top of the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium. (April 29, 2011) Credit: Christopher Pasatieri

To get ready for a game, Yankees catcher Russell Martin makes sure he has all of his important gear:

Catcher's mask. Shin guards. Bright orange nail polish.

Yes, you read right. Martin has the fingernails on his right hand painted bright orange with a white stripe down the middle to help Yankee pitchers see the signs he's giving from behind the plate.

As anyone who paints their nails regularly knows, you can't change the color every day. So Martin keeps his nails orange all the time, whether he's playing or not, and doesn't care if anyone does a double-take when they see him.

"There was a couple guys who had a hard time seeing in spring training, so I just took action into my own hands and got this stuff done," Martin said. "At first, I just put white on it. I used to use Wite-Out and then I'd have to take it off after games and it was messy. I just decided to put on a color that kind of pops out."

Boy, does it pop.

"That's just his thing," CC Sabathia said. "I think he kind of likes that. It does help."

It's not unusual for catchers to paint their nails white or use white tape, as Jorge Posada has done for years.

But walking around the clubhouse every day with bright orange nail polish on? It's a can't-miss sign of the dedication Martin is bringing to his craft in his first season as a Yankee.

"Not only in the clubhouse," A.J. Burnett said. "When he's at home, or when he goes out to eat, he's got polish on. He don't care. He's here to do one thing, and that's help us win. If he's got to wear pink fingernail polish, he'll do it."

Maybe next time. Martin said he had the orange put on during a trip to the manicurist but did the white stripe himself. He plans to have the manicurist do the white stripe, too, from now on.

No word yet if the Yankees are planning to hire a staff manicurist.

"It's just something where I wear white pants or gray pants," Martin said. "They can see it. To have the white stripe kind of helps out a little bit. It works. They have no problem seeing at all. There's no more squinting in, no more trying to figure out what's going on. If there's a little shade, they can still see the paint."

No, Derek, not that Almonte

Remember Erick Almonte, the young shortstop who filled in for Derek Jeter in 2003 after Jeter dislocated his left shoulder on Opening Night in Toronto?

Almonte got 100 at-bats that season and didn’t appear in the big leagues again until this year, with the Brewers. Before that, he played for the Long Island Ducks and in Japan, among other stops.

Almonte made headlines last week as the first player to be placed on baseball’s seven-day disabled list for concussions after he was hit in the head with a thrown ball during batting practice Tuesday.

We asked Jeter the other day if he remembered Almonte.

“Yeah,” he said. “The kid who pitched in the Little Leagues that time?”

Jeter was thinking of Danny Almonte, the overage Bronx teenager who created an international scandal when he dominated younger kids in the Little League World Series in 2001.

All-Star ballots released

All-Star ballots were released this week. One of our favorite things to do — even as a twisted little kid — is to vote for the worst players at each position for each league. All of these players are on the actual ballot.

American League

Catcher, Red Sox, Jarrod Saltalamacchia .204
First base, Royals, Kila Ka'aihue .205
Second base, Tigers, Will Rhymes .221
Short stop, Mariners, Brenden Ryan .184
Third base, White Sox, Brent Morel .194
Outfield, Yankees, Brett Gardner .200
Outfield, Blue Jays, Rajai Davis .209
Outfield, Mariners, Milton Bradley .200
Designated hitter, Jorge Posada .133

National League

Catcher, Dodgers Rod Barajas .202
First base, Giants, Brandon Belt .192
Second base, Rockies, Brad Emaus .162
Short stop, Astros, Clint Barmes .000
Third base, Marlins, Donnie Murphy .103
Outfield, Padres, Will Venable .195
Outfield, Nationals, Rick Ankiel .230
Outfield, Nationals, Michael Morse .211

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