Before his three-hit night that included two RBIs in Friday night’s win over the Yankees, J.D. Martinez had been scuffling. Grinding, he says, since early June. His bat speed was a tick or two too slow. Frankly, he’s looked old, at times. His pitch selection is out of sorts, too, chasing pitches out of the zone at least half the time in each of his last two games heading into Friday’s matchup with the Yankees.
After Martinez’s 0-for-4 effort against the Braves Wednesday that included a whopping 77.8 percent chase rate, his manager didn’t hold back on what he thought was plaguing the Sox slugger.
“We can talk mechanics and all that but we need to swing at strikes,” Alex Cora said. “He’s chasing a lot of pitches. When you don’t swing in the zone, that’s what is going to happen.”
Martinez is obsessed with his mechanics. He looks at video between each round of batting practice, trying to figure out what he’s doing wrong. Now he’s wearing a K-Motion vest during batting practice. The vest synchs his mechanics against the 2018 season when Martinez won two Silver Slugger awards after hitting .330/.402/.629 with 43 homers. He’s trying to get back to those mechanics.
He can make in-game adjustments with his mechanics. He can even make adjustments during an at-bat.
Nevertheless, he’s compiled too much information, thinking about the tweak during at-bats, thus, leading to the high chase rate.
“I’m thinking about my swing in the box. That’s when everything just goes to crap,” Martinez said before the Red Sox’ 3-2 win Friday — a contest that he sent into extra innings with a single in the ninth. “[But] when I don’t think about my mechanics I fly out, or I roll it over. I make contact but it’s very weak contact. Then I’m like, I’ve got to think about it. If not, it’s going to be an out anyways. You know, it’s the only chance to fix it. But it’s part of it. I’ve got to get through it.”
Since June, Martinez had hit just .211 with just four homers (nine on the season), but believes he can still turn it around. Are the bad habits causing the lack of power?
“100 percent,” he said.
Perhaps Friday’s performance gets him going.
“It was great, honestly,” Martinez said . “Especially with this being a big series.”
Jon Lester pays a visit
A familiar figure took an unfamiliar route to the field Friday night.
Roughly two hours before game time, former Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester and his family made their way through the Fenway grandstand to come onto the field for a visit with friends during batting practice. Lester — enjoying his first season of retirement — accompanied his wife, Farrah, and their three children to catch up with Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo as well as members of the Red Sox organization, including assistant GM Raquel Ferreira.
It wasn’t Lester’s first visit to Fenway as a spectator.
“This is actually the first big league stadium I came to as a kid,” said Lester. “So beyond just playing, it’s been a pretty significant place for me.”
Still, a return to Fenway hadn’t been top-of-mind for Lester after he announced his retirement in January. He’s been enjoying life in Georgia — he noted that he’s carpooling to get his sons to football practices, with school soon to start — with little engagement with baseball.
“I kind of separated from all of it,” said Lester.
But his wife suggested a trip to Fenway for a Red Sox-Yankees game so that they could catch up with Rizzo, and so that their kids — particularly 12-year-old Hudson, whose fourth birthday party occurred on July 31, 2014, the same day Lester was traded to the A’s — could enjoy the setting. And so citizen Lester arrived at the park, carrying bags of merchandise purchased for his kids before taking in the game from a suite.
He suggested that he’d been able to maneuver through the park with little fanfare.
“I’ve always been kind of able to hang under the radar,” he said. “It’s been good.”
The Red Sox hope to have news on Tanner Houck Saturday. Houck went on the injured list this week with lower back inflammation and is undergoing further testing … Kiké Hernández (right hip flexor strain) was 0 for 3 with a walk Friday in his second rehab game for the Portland Sea Dogs … Rob Refsnyder (right knee sprain) will likely play in rehab games Saturday and Sunday … Matt Strahm (left wrist contusion, Josh Taylor (lower back strain), and James Paxton (Tommy John) pitched a simulated game Friday at the team’s spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla. Taylor tossed one inning while Paxton tossed two. The Sox are maintaining optimism that Paxton will pitch for the big league club before season’s end. The minor league season finishes September 28. Cora intimated that if Paxton doesn’t pitch any rehab games, they will find an alternative plan in order to ready him for big league action.