The Yankees are pinning their hopes on the belief the combination of Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart behind the plate will keep them afloat in the AL East.

The man they are trying to replace was confident that plan could work — to a point.

“Both those guys can catch,” Russell Martin, now with the Pirates, said yesterday before his former team defeated his current one 11-9 at McKechnie Field. “Offensively, they don’t have the most power in the world. But that’s not the most important part of the game. Taking care of pitchers day in and day out is what matters the most and what ultimately can get you into the playoffs. I think they’re going to do a fine job.”

Martin said he taught Stewart some things about getting rid of the ball quicker on stolen base attempts, and thought Cervelli had significant potential as a backstop.

“The thing with Cervelli I noticed is he tried to be quicker than he needed to be,” Martin said of his old teammate, who has improved defensively so far this spring.

“Maybe he’s more under control,” Martin said. “He tried to be so quick and he didn’t need to be. He’s got a great arm and has great action behind the plate ... He’d get in his own way by playing like his hair was on fire sometimes.”

But as Martin — and the Yankees — have acknowledged, neither player is going to approach the power Martin did at the plate. And he’s aware of the other deficiencies the new-look Yankees have.

“It’s not the same bench,” Martin said. “[Nick] Swisher’s out, I’m out. [Andruw] Jones is out, [Eric] Chavez is gone. It’s going to be tough with all the guys that are injured. It’s definitely an uphill battle, it seems like. But I think they’re up for it. It seems like they always find a way.”