RED SOX NOTEBOOK
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The crowd of 9,772 at JetBlue Park gave J.D. Martinez a loud cheer when he came to the plate in the first inning on Wednesday.
Martinez was giddy, too. This was one meaningless game he was actually looking forward to.
Martinez agreed to terms with the Sox on Feb. 19. It then took six days to complete his physical and renegotiate some as aspects of the original deal.
By the time he joined his new teammates, Martinez was nine days behind the other position players.
“You don’t realize how much you miss something until you can’t do it. I just wanted to get out there,” he said.
The first game was uneventful. Martinez was 0 for 2 and played four innings in left field against the Minnesota Twins. He hit a fly ball to right field in the first inning and one to center field in the fourth.
Defensively, Martinez made a nice play in the second inning, coming in to catch a low line drive off the bat of Brian Dozier and making a quick throw to second base.
“It felt good. It was fun,” he said.
The plan is for Martinez to be the designated hitter on Thursday, then play Saturday and Sunday before getting at-bats in a minor league game on Monday.
With the minor league games factored in, Martinez should be able get enough at-bats to feel comfortable with his swing by Opening Day.
“With his work ethic, I’m not going to worry,” manager Alex Cora said.
Martinez is a career .252 hitter in spring training. The results are far less important than the process of getting ready.
“I feel like you guys have the expectations, the fans and the media. I’m just going to go out there and play my game and do what I’ve been doing the last four or five years,” Martinez said.
And if there’s any pressure to live up to his $110 million contract, Martinez isn’t considering it.
“Obviously ignore it,” Martinez said. “Obviously playing in Boston, it’s a big market so there’s going to be a lot more. I think it will be a good test handling it.”
The biggest issue could be defensively. Martinez has 284 games of experience in left field, but none since 2014. With two-time Gold Glove winner Mookie Betts in right field, Martinez is more likely to play left when he’s not the designated hitter. Plus there’s the challenge of playing left field at Fenway Park.
“I’m more concerned about left field than the left-field wall. Just getting back out there,” he said.
Drew Pomeranz played catch for the first time since straining his flexor tendon last Friday and did not feel any pain. The plan is for Pomeranz to play long toss on Friday and move forward from there.
Eduardo Nunez was in the lineup to play second base against the Twins but was scratched because of the weather. Morning rain left the grass wet and Cora didn’t want to take any chances with Nunez’s right knee.
Nunez is now scheduled to play second base on Thursday and again on Saturday before being the DH on Sunday.
The Red Sox have three lefthanded relief pitchers in camp — Williams Jerez, Bobby Poyner and Robby Scott. Of that group, only Scott has major league experience.
The Sox also have Brian Johnson and Roenis Elias, experienced Triple A starters who could transition into the bullpen.
Cora is unconcerned with what seems like a lack of options. He would be fine with seven righthanded relievers to start the season.
“If you have to carry four lefties, you carry them as long as they can get people out. If you don’t have to carry them, then you don’t carry them,” he said. “If your righties can get righties and lefties out, you do that. It’s just a matter of who can get people out.”
Cora has no intention of keeping a lefthander for the sake of convention.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said.
Carson Smith and Joe Kelly have handled lefthanded hitters well in their careers. The AL East also has only a handful of dangerous lefthanded hitters.
Handedness aside, Cora likes what he sees from Poyner. He has retired 15 of the 16 hitters he faced in five appearances this spring. Poyner retired the side in order against the Phillies in the fifth inning on Wednesday in Clearwater.
The 25-year-old had an 0.93 WHIP in 43 games last season and averaged 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
“I’m trying to look at the small picture and take each outing as an individual success,” Poyner said “My main focus is to have another scoreless outing on Friday. I’m trying to not get caught up in the big picture.”
Poyner doesn’t have the velocity to overmatch hitters. But he was successful at the University of Florida and made it to big league spring training after only two full seasons in the minors.
“I don’t throw very hard but I command the ball pretty well,” Poyner said. “Obviously hard in and soft away. I elevate at the top of the zone. Those couple of things have been my keys lately.”
The Sox players and coaches have their yearly meeting with MLB security officials on Thursday morning . . . The minor league teams start their spring training scheduled on March 14. It runs through March 31 . . . Elias tried wearing a batting glove to improve his performance in clubhouse Ping-Pong. It did not help.
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