This time, to borrow his favorite expression, Pedro Martinez wasn’t in the house. At least not early enough to satisfy manager Jimy Williams, who bounced the Red Sox ace from his scheduled start yesterday when he was a late arrival to Fenway Park and didn’t phone in his regrets.
``He was late . . . I didn’t know where he was,’’ Williams said of his pitcher who failed to show up within the designated time before his start. ``I had to make a decision, and tell another pitcher to pitch. You need time to prepare. You don’t just throw on your clothes and go out there.’’
But timing, apparently, isn’t everything, even on a day in which Martinez said he was 10 to 15 minutes late because he stayed home to be worked on by his personal therapist, but was prepared to take his turn, anyway.
Martinez’s anger at being scratched in favor of the previously anonymous Bryce Florie was as apparent after the game as it was during a heated dugout exchange beforehand with the Sox manager (``If I’m a bad influence on this team, then maybe they should just get rid of me’’). But it had absolutely no bearing on the outcome, a 13-2 beating of Seattle in which the Sox collected 19 hits, five by rookie Brian Daubach, who also had six RBIs in a season that is becoming more Joe Hardyish by the day, and the winning pitcher was none other than Martinez, the reluctant reliever who was pouting in the pen until summoned to turn out the lights, and went home with his 17th win.
``It wouldn’t have mattered if another starter had been late,’’ Williams said. ``I would have made the same decision. I had to get another pitcher.
``This is a grind. We’ve got to stay together. I think we are. Now let’s move on.’’
Florie, who was booed by the sellout crowd of 33,253 when he was announced as the starting pitcher, gave up just a run on four hits but was lifted one out before he pitched the five innings required of a starting pitcher to be credited with a win.
``I’m not disappointed,’’ said Florie, the trading-deadline acquisition from Detroit who had been used sparingly since joining the Sox but was pressed into service because he was the freshest arm available, according to Williams.
``This team is all about wins,’’ Florie said. ``With 46 games left, we’ve got to get wins. I did my job. If I’d gotten another win, that would have knocked me up to three. I don’t think I’m going to knock anybody out with three wins.’’
Florie, who hadn’t started a game since June 6 with Detroit, said he didn’t find out until around 3:25, 40 minutes before the scheduled start, that he’d be getting first call. ``They called me into the office,’’ he said, referring to Williams and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan. ``I said, `All right.’ I didn’t ask any questions.
``I knew. You’re in the locker room. You can see who’s here and who’s not here. Joe walked by and said, `Florie, in about five minutes.’ I looked around, Pedro wasn’t here. Maybe they were going to bump him, maybe he was tied up in traffic. I didn’t know. They called me, and told me I was starting.’’
Even as he scrambled to the outfield to stretch and play catch, Florie wasn’t sure that would remain the plan when he saw Martinez, glove and jacket in hand, striding toward the bullpen 25 minutes before the scheduled first pitch.
``The way he looked, I thought he was starting,’’ Florie said. ``He walked out, and I waited to see what would happen, but Joe reassured me I was still pitching.’’
He pitched until David Bell’s wall-scraping double scored Raul Ibanez with two out in the fifth, and Williams summoned lefthander Rheal Cormier. Cormier gave up a hit to the only batter he faced, Tom Lampkin, but plate umpire Durwood Merrill decided that Bell was out at the plate on Butch Huskey’s throw from right field, even though it appeared Bell eluded catcher Jason Varitek’s tag.
That led to a classic meltdown by Seattle manager Lou Piniella, ejected for the third time this season: cap hurled to the turf, dirt kicked at the plate, gestures bordering on burlesque as he showed Merrill by how much he thought the umpire missed the call. Third-base coach Steve Smith also was ejected by umpire Rocky Roe as he spun away from Roe in an attempt to get to Merrill.
Varitek’s view of the play? ``Ask Durwood,’’ he said with his best poker face. ``The umpire called him out.’’
Enter Martinez, who began the sixth with a 7-1 lead and vultured a win, giving up three hits, including Alex Rodriguez’s 30th home run, while striking out six in four innings. Official scorer Charles Scoggins, exercising his discretion, awarded the win to Martinez, his first as a reliever since Sept. 6, 1993.
``Punishment? No, that’s not the way I look at it,’’ said Williams, who refused to say whether he had fined Martinez, though you can be certain he went home with a lighter wallet.
Martinez said he apologized to his teammates before the game, but still was adamant that he was prepared to start.
``I guess Jimy doesn’t trust my way to get out there every five days,’’ Martinez said.
And to think the afternoon began as Sox Family Day, with the wives and children of the players frolicking on the field before the game.
``This team’s going to move forward,’’ John Valentin said. ``Regardless of what happened. In any type of situation, we’re still a team.’’
Darren Lewis expressed a similar sentiment. ``He knows better,’’ Lewis said. ``He knows as a professional that you have to show up on time and be ready to play. He knows better than anybody. I’m sure he feels bad about it.
``But I’m not disappointed, because it didn’t have anything to do with me. Somebody else stepped in there and picked us up for four or five innings.
``I love Pedro. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, as a player and a person.’’
That adage about rules being made to be broken, especially if you can get away with it, still applies, old hand Bret Saberhagen said.
``But the bottom line,’’ he said, ``is this team has a set of rules in place and if you don’t abide by them you’re going to get punished.’’