Martinez back in Red Sox uniform, ready to help

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Martinez back in Red Sox uniform, ready to help

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."

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

IRVING, Texas -- Baseball players and owners reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labor contract Wednesday night, a deal that will extend the sport's industrial peace to 26 years since the ruinous fights in the first two decades of free agency.

After days of near round-the-clock talks, negotiators reached a verbal agreement about 3 1/2 hours before the expiration of the current pact. Then they worked to draft a memorandum of understanding, which must be ratified by both sides.

"It's great! Another five years of uninterrupted baseball," Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said in a text message.

In announcing the agreement, Major League Baseball and the players' association said they will make specific terms available when drafting is complete.

"Happy it's done, and baseball is back on," Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy said.

As part of the deal, the experiment of having the All-Star Game determine which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series will end after 14 years, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been signed.

Instead, the pennant winner with the better regular-season record will open the Series at home.

Another important change: The minimum time for a stint on the disabled list will be reduced from 15 days to 10.

The luxury tax threshold rises from $189 million to $195 million next year, $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $209 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021.

Tax rates increase from 17.5 percent to 20 percent for first offenders, remain at 30 percent for second offenders and rise from 40 percent to 50 percent for third offenders. There is a new surtax of 12 percent for teams $20 million to $40 million above the threshold, 42.5 percent for first offenders more than $40 million above the threshold and 45 percent for subsequent offenders more than $40 million above.

Union head Tony Clark, presiding over a negotiation for the first time, said in a statement the deal "will benefit all involved in the game and leaves the game better for those who follow."

Key changes involve the qualifying offers clubs can make to their former players after they become free agents - the figure was $17.2 million this year. If a player turns down the offer and signs elsewhere, his new team forfeits an amateur draft pick, which usually had been in the first round under the old deal.

Under the new rules, a player can receive a qualifying offer only once in his career and will have 10 days to consider it instead of seven. A club signing a player who declined a qualifying offer would lose its third-highest amateur draft pick if it is a revenue-sharing receiver, its second- and fifth-highest picks (plus a loss of $1 million in its international draft pool) if it pays luxury tax for the just-ended season, and its second-highest pick (plus $500,000 in the international draft pool) if it is any other team.

A club losing a free agent who passed up a qualifying offer would receive an extra selection after the first round of the next draft if the player signed a contract for $50 million or more and after competitive balance round B if under $50 million. However, if that team pays luxury tax, the extra draft pick would drop to after the fourth round.

Among other details:

-For a team $40 million or more in excess of the luxury tax threshold, its highest selection in the next amateur draft will drop 10 places.

-While management failed to obtain an international draft of amateurs residing outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, it did get a hard cap on each team's annual bonus pool for those players starting at $4.75 million for the signing period that begins next July 2.

-There is no change to limits on active rosters, which remain at 25 for most of the season and 40 from Sept. 1 on.

-Smokeless tobacco will be banned for all new players, those who currently do not have at least one day of major league service.

-The regular season will expand from 183 days to 187 starting in 2018, creating four more scheduled off days. There are additional limitations on the start times of night games on getaway days.

-The minimum salary rises from $507,500 to $535,000 next year, $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019, with cost-of-living increases the following two years; the minor league minimum for a player appearing on the 40-man roster for at least the second time goes up from $82,700 to $86,500 next year, $88,000 in 2018 and $89,500 in 2019, followed by cost-of-living raises.

-The drop-off in slot values in the first round of the amateur draft will be lessened.

-Oakland's revenue-sharing funds will be cut to 75 percent next year, 50 percent in 2018, 25 percent in 2019 and then phased out.

-As part of the drug agreement, there will be increased testing, players will not be credited with major league service time during suspensions, and biomarker testing for HGH will begin next year.

Negotiators met through most of Tuesday night in an effort to increase momentum in the talks, which began during spring training. This is the third straight time the sides reached a new agreement before the old contract expired, but a deal was struck eight weeks in advance in 2006 and three weeks ahead of expiration in 2011.

Talks took place at a hotel outside Dallas where the players' association held its annual executive board meeting.

Clark, the first former player to serve as executive director of the union, and others set up in a meeting room within earshot of a children's choir practicing Christmas carols. A man dressed as Santa Claus waited nearby.

Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the last a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years. The 2002 agreement was reached after players authorized a strike and about 3 1/2 hours before the first game that would have been impacted by a walkout.

The peace in baseball is in contrast to the recent labor histories of other major sports. The NFL had a preseason lockout in 2011, the NBA lost 240 games to a lockout that same year and the NHL lost 510 games to a lockout in 2012-13.