Martinez back in Red Sox uniform, ready to help

Martinez back in Red Sox uniform, ready to help
February 18, 2013, 9:21 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As the Red Sox criss-crossed from one field to another Monday morning, moving from one drill to the next, there was little doubt as to who the fans most wanted to see.

It wasn't Dustin Pedroia, former A.L. MVP. It wasn't David Ortiz, who owns the franchise record for most homers in a season. Not was it any of the many newcomers.

No, the most sought-after player this brisk spring morning was an old face embarking on a new role.

"Pedro! Pedro!" shouted the fans, reaching out to touch Pedro Martinez as though this was 2003 and not 2013.

Martinez beamed at the adulation, waving quickly and smiling broadly, wearing a Red Sox uniform for the first time since Game 4 of the 2004 World Series in St. Louis.

"It's weird, but it feels like the first day," said Martinez. "I get so excited to be part of this team (again) and be part of the tradition that we have here. To me, it was just like the first day."

Martinez returns at a time in which the franchise he helped lead to a title has fallen on far tougher times. The Sox have missed the playoffs the last three years and last year, bottomed out with a last-place finish and just 69 wins.

From a distance, Martinez watched helplessly.

"There's an empty feeling you get from in front of the TV," he said. "Sometimes, the few games I stopped to watch, it was painful. The chemistry wasn't there. The team wasn't doing what it was supposed to.

"I was trying to be optimistic about the team playing together all year. That never happened. And I know that was one of the biggest reasons why the team didn't perform to the level that everyone expected them to play."

After pitching for Philadelphia in 2009, then flirting with the idea of pitching half a season in 2010, Martinez was fully idle the last two years.

This winter, he decided it was time to come back to the game.

"I knew that I wanted to be on the field," he said. "But not all the time. That's why I automatically erased becoming a pitching coach or a manager because I don't really see myself doing 162 games. I did it for my whole career and if I take part on the field, it's going to be this way."

Following three seasons on the sidelines, Martinez grew restless.

"I can't sit still for long," he said. "I have to work. I grew up working. It was play, play, play, play and play. I was never home and even though my family needs me and I need my family, I still need some time to go away, have a schedule, have something to do, and at the same time, be where I like to be, which is on the baseball field."

Now, Martinez will try to impart some of what he knows about the game, and pitching in general. Some immortal players have difficulty relating to those whose talent doesn't match their own, but Martinez said that shouldn't be an issue, since despite his achievements, he considers himself a blue-collar player.

"This may sound weird but I never considered myself a great player," he said. "I made myself, along with my teammates, a better player than I was. I never thought I was a superstar. I worked like I was a hungry man going for the first game in the big leagues . . . There was a lot of work for me to do to have success."

It's yet to be fully determined how much Martinez will work with the organization. That will take some time.

"I became really close to Benny (Cherington) and I offered him my help in any sense I can help him," Martinez said. "I'm open to help them out. I just won't compromise special time with my family. I won't compromise things that are important to me in my life. But as far as anything else, I'm open to helping the Red Sox."

This is a new enterprise, and as such, Martinez is unsure exactly what he'll do and what role he'll play. But there are a number of areas he believes he can help.

"I hope to add some knowledge," he said, "any help I can, to the staff in every aspect -- mechanically, out in the field, mentally. I know what we go through in the middle of the season. I can relate to them and hopefully I can get them going. They can come and ask questions and I'll be more than willing to answer.

"I can't handle the fact that I have all this knowledge and not give it away. I would love to give it away."

On Monday, he was working specifically with Rubby De La Rosa -- whom he's known for years -- Danile Bard and Felix Doubront. Doubront arrived out of shape and his left shoulder, for the second time in three years, is abnormally weak as spring training begins.

Martinez sees great potential in Doubront, but first, the young lefty has to understand what's at stake.

"He's so young, so full of talent," explained Martinez, "that sometimes we take for granted the opportunity we're given. But the same way it comes, the same way it could go. All it takes is a bad injury and you're out of baseball and the only way you can prevent injuries is hard work. I just believe he doesn't know.

"He hasn't been taught that he's going to be held accountable for his performance and the way he looks and that this is really a serious business. I think it takes a little while to get him mentally prepared, to understand the responsibility he has on top of his shoulder.

"He's so young. These pitchers come up so young and so talented that they don't realize how much they're going to be counted on and I think Doubront is a good example. I think I can be a good asset to him, to learn about some of the things he has to do . . . I hope he sees me as a good example of hard work and dedication and will."

Time seems to have mellowed Martinez some. After the Sox refused to give him the long-term commitment he sought after 2004, Martinez left to sign with the Mets on a four-year deal. But in the interim, he's been able to place it all on context.

"I never held it against them," he said. "You have to understand, baseball has a dark side and it's the negotiations. There's a business part of baseball that forces you to look for negatives. Money makes it all difficult. It's just a battle, like two boxers. You shake hands before and you shake hands after. I never held it against Boston the fact that they didn't sign me. No grudges."

And now he's back -- to teach, to share, to help. But not, he assured, to pitch again.

"Not at all, no chance," he said, shaking his lead and laughing. "I did what was I supposed to do and that's it. I can't pitch. I would love to brush someone back and say, 'Hey, get off the plate. That's my area.' But now I'm going to have to sit and watch and rely on someone else to do it for me."