PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – When catcher Russell Martin returned home to Canada after signing an $82 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays last November, the Pirates had some shoes to fill.

Now, many are asking, ‘Russell who?’

Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, the duo who had the catching position ‘left up to them’ after Russell’s departure, have the best combined average by catchers in Major League Baseball.

Two months into his eighth professional season, Cervelli is on track to double the 43 games he played last year with the Yankees. Provided he stays healthy, he should exceed the most games he’s played in a season (90 in 2010) as well.

After a slow start to the season, the Pirates are 13-4 over their past 17 games. Stewart is comfortable with the job both he and Cervelli have done so far.

He said there was never a question of whether the duo would be able to lead the team toward another winning season.

“We were confident coming into this season that Cervelli and I were plenty capable of doing the job back there,” said Stewart. “We’re taking care of this pitching staff and getting them to do what they need to be doing to be successful.”

But, success doesn’t come without help. The dependable rotation the Pirates have placed on the mound this season is just as vital to Cervelli and Stewart’s success as their own performance.

“The ’big three’ are throwing absolutely outstanding for us right now,” said Stewart. “The other two guys are coming along. On any given day, it doesn’t matter who is out there on the mound. We know the guys out there will do their job, and we’re most likely going to come away with the win.”

Don’t forget that pitcher A.J. Burnett, Cervelli and Stewart aren’t strangers, as they all showed up on the Yankees’ roster within the last five years.

The existing relationship has no doubt made the transition even easier.

“We’re on track so far. We’re just doing a good job of keeping them doing what they need to be doing out there. We’ve been able to get it going strong now, and hopefully we carry it through the season,” said Stewart.

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