Martin exits early with hamstring tightness

Martin exits early with hamstring tightness

ATLANTA -- The biggest fear of a team headed to the postseason hovered over the Pirates on Wednesday night, when Russell Martin had to leave in the fourth inning with tightness in his left hamstring.

A strain of that hamstring sent Martin to the disabled list for a month earlier this season, during which the team struggled.

Martin was 1-for-2 against Atlanta right-hander Julio Teheran, raising his average to .295 the night after having had a 13-game hitting streak halted.

The catcher's greatest value, however, is behind the plate as the conductor of the terrific pitching that had led the Bucs to 15 wins in 18 games entering Wednesday's action.

With Pittsburgh already assured of a voice in postseason play, as at least a National League Wild Card entrant, the best sign was that Martin attributed his departure to that very dependence on his October contribution.

"With the direction we're heading now, it was just the smart, cautious decision to make," Martin said. "We didn't want to possibly make it worse and be remorseful."

Martin disdained his usual periodic days off as the Pirates barreled down the stretch. Even though they had clinched a postseason berth with Tuesday's victory, Martin remained in the starting lineup for the 14th time in 16 games.

Given that the Bucs are already assured of a postseason presence, might Martin take some time off now to ensure being in the best possible condition when the playoff bell rings?

"We'll evaluate how he feels in the morning, and make a decision based on that," general manager Neal Huntington said.

"I don't want to speak too fast," Martin said. "I want to see how I feel [Thursday] when I wake up, and we'll make a decision from there."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.