Shortstop J.J. Hardy and second baseman Orlando Hudson, the Minnesota Twins' new double play combination, are getting acquainted in the infield.
The two are being paired during spring training so they can learn each other's tendencies and get comfortable with a new partner around the bag. Even though they have yet to turn a double play in four exhibition games, both said they expect their new working arrangement to go smoothly.
They did not get a chance to turn one Friday as the Twins' game with the Mets was canceled by rain.
Minnesota Twins outfielder Ben Revere (left) laughs as pitcher Loek Van Mil tells a story in the dugout before a spring training game at Hammond Stadium. More spring training photos are available online at: cu.cape-coral-daily-breeze.com.
Hardy was acquired in a trade from the Milwaukee Brewers, while Hudson signed with the Twins as a free agent. Minnesota is Hudson's fourth major league team.
"I think the transition will be easy," said Hardy, who was dealt for outfielder Carlos Gomez in November. "I think by April 5 when we're in Anaheim, it will be just fine."
Hardy welcomes the chance to work with Hudson, even though he acknowledges that he misses his former partner Rickie Weeks of the Brewers.
"Rickie definitely doesn't talk quite as much," Hardy said. "I don't think anybody does. But they're both really good players."
After spending the previous eight seasons in the big leagues with the Blue Jays, Diamondbacks and Dodgers, four-time Gold Glove winner Hudson is accustomed to meeting new teammates and shortstops. Mike Bordick, Felipe Lopez, Stephen Drew, Rafael Furcal, Russ Adams and Aaron Hill are some of shortstops who have combined for double plays over the years with Hudson.
"He makes sure the ball goes into the glove before he does anything else," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said earlier this spring after watching Hudson work. "A lot of guys forget they have to catch the ball first, but right away from the get-go, he was locked in. He was like perfect."
Hardy is also known for his pop at the plate. He hit 26 home runs in 2007 and 24 in 2008. And he has made the fourth-fewest errors for a shortstop since 2007, with 36.
"The chemistry is right there," Hudson said. "We're right where we need to be. Everybody's different. Everybody's different. But that's what spring training is for. That's what the early spring is for."
n Cardinals, Red Sox makeup: St. Louis and Boston postponed their game Friday because of rain and agreed to a rare spring training makeup date.
They will split their squads on March 22, adding a game in Jupiter. Stadium officials were expecting one of the largest spring crowds Friday.
"If I were the Cardinals and I had a sellout I would want to play the game, too," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
Victor Martinez was thrown into the fire of an American League East pennant race after joining the Red Sox as a trading deadline acquisition last season.
The catcher didn't have time to learn and adapt to the nuances of all the pitchers on his staff.
It's different now.
"It was something that I was really looking forward to coming into spring training, just having a chance to work with every single guy," Martinez said. "It makes me feel a lot more comfortable."
He acknowledged that it was difficult when he first joined Boston. Leaving the Indians, the organization that signed him as a 17-year-old out of Venezuela, adapting to a new team, a new city, and a new pitching staff were major adjustments.
Martinez, who turned 31 in December, now has the opportunity to learn about the subtleties and idiosyncrasies of his staff without the heat of a pennant race bearing down on him.
"We got six weeks before we get the season started," he said. "I'm just trying to find out, get on the same page with them, just kind of learn what they like to do in certain situations. That little stuff that is going to make my job a little easier to call a game for them."
The pitchers must also become comfortable with him.
Earlier this week, Martinez caught Josh Beckett against the Cardinals. On a scale of 1 to 10, Beckett said his comfort level with Martinez behind the plate is about a 7.
"I think we're comfortable with each other," Beckett said. "I think it's a feel. He gets a feel for what I like to throw in certain counts and that creates rhythm. For us right now, it's just about getting on the same page every pitch."
Martinez has supplanted incumbent Jason Varitek, the team captain who is entering his 14th season with the Red Sox on a one-year contract. Martinez said the transition would have been much more difficult it hadn't been for Varitek.
"Man, he did it," Martinez said. "He pretty much did it all for me last year. He was the one that got me ready for the pitching staff. He was the one that really helped me out. He told me what pitches, if a pitcher is in a hole or in trouble, call this pitch, it'll relax him. You know what, if it wasn't for Jason, things would be a lot tougher last year."
It was a situation that could have been very awkward.
"Well, that shows you what kind of player he is," Martinez said.