Pedro Martinez tossed on a uniform and joined the Red Sox at camp in Fort Myers, Fla., on Monday. And while Martinez won’t be brushing back hitters any time soon, it’s clear the former Boston hurler still has plenty of passion for the game of baseball.
“You know what? It’s weird but feels like the first day to me,” Martinez told reporters when asked about putting a Red Sox uniform back on. “I’m so excited to be part of this team and part of the season that we have here. … It felt kind of funny to be putting on a pair of [baseball] pants again.”
Martinez, who recently rejoined the organization as a special assistant to general manager Ben Cherington, carved out one heck of a career, earning three Cy Young awards, including two as a member of the Red Sox. There’s a good chance Martinez will someday find himself getting inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. For now, however, Martinez is focused on helping the Sox return to the top of the mountain after a disappointing 2012.
“I hope to add some knowledge,” Martinez said of what he’ll bring to the table in his new role. “Any help I can give the staff in every aspect. It could be mechanically, it could be on the field, it could be off the field, it could be mentally. I know a lot. I know about all they’re going through, struggles and stuff like that. What we go through in the middle of the season, especially after the first half. I can relate to a lot of them.”
Martinez last pitched with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009, and there are plenty of fans across Red Sox Nation who wouldn’t mind seeing the 41-year-old toe the rubber for the hometown club every fifth day. But as intriguing as a comeback would be, Martinez said there’s no chance of that happening.
“It’s different for me to deal with because I can’t pitch. I would love to brush someone back. ‘Hey, hey, get off the plate. This is my area.’ Now I have to sit and watch and rely on someone to do it so I can get my giddy-up always,” he said.
Martinez did talk a little bit about his playing days on Monday, though. He estimated that probably 90 percent of the batters he hit in his career were plunked intentionally, although when he drilled guys, it was out of retaliation for his teammates. Two players Martinez said he didn’t throw at intentionally were Karim Garcia and Gerald Williams, both of whom Martinez had an altercation with.
One of the things that made Martinez so feared throughout his career was his willingness to pitch inside regardless of the situation. It’s a strategy he hopes to see the Red Sox pitchers adopt in 2013.
“You teach them when to do it, how to do it and how to do it properly and effectively. I think it’s all part of the game. You have to pitch inside and you have to brush them back when you have to,” Martinez said. “You have to actually make them feel uncomfortable all the time if you want to have success. One of the things that makes you feel uncomfortable is a pitch inside that is close to you at you at 99 (mph). Rubby De La Rosa or [Felix] Doubront or [Jon] Lester can get anybody uncomfortable. I will preach it and I will say they need to pitch inside if they want to have success.”
Martinez said Monday that he never viewed himself as a superstar during his career. His staggering numbers, pure dominance and the overall buzz that follows him prove that he was and still is worthy of that label, though.