By HOWIE RUMBERG
AP Sports Writer
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Russell Martin had not crouched behind a plate in a big league game since he injured his hip in August, and he was pretty nervous for his debut with the New York Yankees. Bartolo Colon made it real easy on him.
Martin caught five smooth innings, including three thrown by an impressive Colon, but the Yankees lost 5-3 to a lineup of Boston Red Sox backups Friday night.
“It felt good, man,” Martin said. “It helps to have a guy that’s just dotting it up there, though, like Colon was.”
Martin’s 2010 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers was cut short Aug. 3 when he broke his right hip and tore a labrum during a game against San Diego. He injured his knee during an off-season workout.
Signed to a free-agent deal with the Yankees this winter, Martin had been serving as a DH while he strengthened his knee – he was 0-for-3 Friday and is 0-for-9 this spring.
“I’ve been pushing pretty hard just to make sure that I would be ready for game situations,” said Martin, who is wearing a lightweight brace on the right knee.
Manager Joe Girardi said Martin is on track to catch Sunday. His health took on greater significance after it was revealed earlier in the day that 2010 backup catcher Francisco Cervelli broke a bone in his left foot when he fouled a ball off it Wednesday. Cervelli will be in a protective boot for four weeks and it is not known when he will play again.
One person who most likely will not see time as catcher this spring is Jorge Posada. He is making the transition to his new role as designated hitter and has not seen any game action thus far. Girardi said that wouldn’t change.
Cervelli’s injury makes it almost certain that Jesus Montero or Austin Romine, both top prospects, will make the trip to New York at the start of the season.
Posada did make a brief appearance behind the plate – to catch the ceremonial first pitch from Richard Gere.
The Hollywood A-lister provided most of the visiting star power.
Besides Clay Buchholz, a second-string lineup made the trip for the Red Sox. Buchholz was sharp in his second outing and first start. He limited a loaded Yankees’ lineup to a single by Alex Rodriguez in three innings. He walked two and struck out two.
“I looked at (the lineup) and I was like, ‘Man, another All-Star team,”’ Buchholz said. “But I think it’s good going out there and face some guys like this. It definitely makes you better.”
Red Sox left fielder Josh Reddick robbed Robinson Cano of extra bases with a flat-out dive for a ball that was over his shoulder. Oscar Tejada, who played Class A ball last year, had a two-run triple and an RBI single for Boston.
“I’ll take a two-hour bus ride to watch those young kids do what they did. That was worth the bus ride,” manager Terry Francona said.
Colon, the 2005 CY Young Award winner in camp on a minor league deal, is trying to fill one of the two spots available at the back end of the Yankees rotation. He has not pitched in the big leagues since 2009 but he played winter ball in the Dominican Republic, and he thinks it has made all the difference.
“I was doing all my work. If I’m home in the Dominican and I’m not playing winter ball I’m not doing the work,” Colon said with a knowing smile.
Colon was followed by 19-year-old Manny Banuelos. The rising prospect has been impressive this spring. Martin compared him toformer Dodgers teammate Clayton Kershaw. Girardi was equally impressed after Banuelos struck out three in two innings.
“From what I’ve seen Manny has poise,” Girardi said. “You usually don’t see nearly 20 year olds this far along.”
NOTES: Yankees RHP Rafael Soriano, the former Tampa Bay closer who be the primary setup man for closer Mariano Rivera, threw 20 pitches during his first batting practice session. … Red Sox 1B Adrian Gonzalez, who had surgery on his non-throwing right shoulder last October, took 80 swings, including 10 off a pitching machine. “He felt really good,” Francona said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)