NEW YORK — J.D. Martinez is meticulous when it comes to hitting. He’s a visual learner and prefers not to go off feel. He has to see it on film in order to apply it.
But COVID-19 has changed that, or at the very least limited it. Martinez is still trying to figure it out.
“It’s definitely been an adjustment for me,” he said. “It’s something that’s a big part of my routine and it’s a big part of who I am, the studying everything. It’s kind of one of those things where you kind of have to find a new routine.”
Martinez, 2 for his last 23 and out of Saturday’s starting lineup, hasn’t found it yet. Sometimes, Martinez likes to get to the field early to scour through video, but league safety protocols this season limit the amount of time players can be in the stadium prior to a game.
“No doubt it’s different,” manager Ron Roenicke said before the Sox’ 5-2 loss to the Yankees. “It probably affects J.D. more than anybody because he uses video more than anybody. He puts so much preparation into what he does. He’s one of the few guys that, in-game, can look at a video and see what he’s doing wrong and correct it.”
That too is limited, and hitters’ meetings are much more individual, meaning players can’t shoot different ideas off each other.
“It’s been different not being able to congregate, to be able to discuss it as a whole. Kind of discussing it individually, obviously with individual plans geared toward you, but it’s something we’ve had to make an adjustment to,” Jackie Bradley Jr. said. “It’s different, but it kind of is what it is right now.”
Darwinzon Hernandez could be start of E-Rod solution
With Eduardo Rodriguez out for the season, the team is in dire need of starting pitching. Darwinzon Hernandez stepped on the scene as a reliever last season. He continues to ramp up his workload, and the team hopes both he and Josh Taylor can join the big-league club soon.
Could Hernandez be a starter? Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom wouldn’t rule it out.
“I think, we certainly want to get him back pitching in the big leagues,” he said. “You recognize we have a shorter season here. The more time you want to allocate to build-up, it’s going to lower the amount of time you can have the player impact your major league club, but I think he has the ability to help for certainly more than one inning.”
Hernandez was originally a starter in the minors, appearing in 86 contests.
“How we progress him, I think, will depend on a number of factors, but I think we’d like to see him have a chance to help us in a bit of a larger role than just short relief,” Bloom said.
Alex Verdugo’s keeping grounded
Alex Verdugo is full of energy and passion. He plays the game with an edge that this Sox team needs. He’s also full of ground balls, registering a 52.9 percent ground ball rate in his career and 88.2 percent this season entering Saturday.
“He is hitting the ball on the ground. Because he does hit the ball all over the field, he’s getting hits on those,” Roenicke said. “You try to shift people like that and you end up getting a lot of ground ball hits.”
It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Scouts have raved about Verdugo’s offensive prowess and his bat-to-ball skills. But there seems as if there’s more power there for him to lift the ball, something Roenicke thinks he’ll get to.
“I like his approach lately,” Roenicke added. “I think he’s staying inside the ball better. I know he tells me when he’s really right, that’s what he does. So, he’ll start getting the ball in the air more.”