If there were a Mount Rushmore of modern-day baseball pitchers, Pedro Martinez thinks he’d belong on it.
“I am somehow kind of like [Sandy] Koufax and [Bob] Gibson, because that’s the kind of seasons we’ve had, given the numbers,” said Martinez. “But I have no idea of the numbers. I don’t like reading about me. I’m not interested and I’m hard to impress.”
Martinez on various other topics:
■ Regarding the Red Sox pitching staff, Martinez said it’s evident that things are different this year.
“[John] Lackey used to be a little chubby, but now he’s lean,” he said. “That guy worked his tail off. And I’ve seen [Clay] Buchholz, I’ve seen [Jon] Lester, I saw pretty much the whole staff, including [Felix] Doubront, who was a little bit overweight. By the time he started to pitch, he lost a lot of weight and now is in great shape. I’ve seen them all work really hard.”
He seemed a bit concerned about Buchholz, who has been sidelined since June after the best start of his career.
“First of all, if he’s healthy, he knows how to pitch,” said Martinez. “Keeping his composure mentally, especially to stay focused for a whole year, is what makes the difference between Cy Young and a guy with all the abilities that never clicks. The mental aspect is how much you are willing to sacrifice.”
■ It doesn’t bother him that the Red Sox have not retired his No. 45.
“I just think the Red Sox are more conservative and they like to do things right when they do it,” he said. “Now that I’ve been around Fenway and the Boston Red Sox as an organization, I noticed they are very unique the way they do things.”
He cited the way they hosted the 1999 All-Star Game.
“I don’t think there will be another All-Star Game more perfect, the way it was put together,” he said. “The national anthem, the planes buzzing at 500 feet, the All-Century Team. Ted [Williams] did his part, the other players did their part.
“I did my part to make it almost perfect. Everything just clicked.”
Reports that he injured himself striking out five of the six batters he faced in that game were untrue, he said.
“What messed me up was the way [Joe] Kerrigan used me,” said Martinez. “He was the boss. I told him I needed to throw a side and he told me not to, that his instructions were for me to get as much rest as possible.
“I didn’t throw for nine days. What happened, happened in the game, but I got back quickly.”
■ It irks Martinez that Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander was named AL MVP two years ago, because Martinez finished second in the balloting in 1999 when two writers did not vote for him on the grounds that he was a pitcher.
“Why did they give it to Verlander? Since I left, has everybody changed their mind on voting for pitchers as MVP? Verlander’s numbers didn’t compare to mine. Nowhere near. ’’
■ Martinez regrets tossing a hard-charging 72-year-old Yankees coach Don Zimmer to the turf in the 2003 playoffs during a bench-clearing altercation, but he never apologized to him.
“It wasn’t me that provoked it,” he said. “I wish it wasn’t part of history that happened with me. I went out there to support my teammates but not even looking to fight. Duty calls that you step out there with your teammates.”
■ He also disputes an account about him in the best-selling book “Francona’’ by Terry Francona and Dan Shaughnessy.
“Francona wrote a book and said there was supposedly some fights between me and Francona,” said Martinez. “Never happened. We never had anything. Supposedly in Baltimore he chewed me up. Supposedly I left the park early during a game and that never happened. Never did.”
Shaughnessy says multiple sources said Martinez left early.Stan Grossfeld can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.