PITTSBURGH -- Russell Martin isn't saying that the spring groin injury he suffered was a blessing, only that he made the most of his time off the field.
Martin was limited to six exhibition games, as much by the club's conservative approach as the perceived severity of the injury. But in two games, he appears to be a more confident hitter.
"It kind of helped me because I was able to lift more intensely throughout Spring Training, because I wasn't playing in games and it's made me stronger," said Martin, who slugged the club's first home run Wednesday night. His first of seven homers last year didn't come until the 69th game of the season.
Martin said that once he was able to start swinging this spring, the hitting philosophy of coaches Don Mattingly and Jeff Pentland began sinking in.
"Somebody can tell you over and over, but you have to feel it," he said. "I'm just starting to be able to put their words into action and it's making me feel better about myself as a hitter."
In simple terms, the philosophy is to create a swing path that maximizes the time the bat is in the hitting zone. When successful, there is a greater margin for error for the hitter to put the ball in play.
"The best in the game was Tony Gwynn," said Martin. "His bat was always in the zone. His bat path was so good."