PHOENIX — On Friday afternoon, J.D. Martinez stood in the Red Sox clubhouse with Rafael Devers, positioning the 22-year-old’s arms and upper body as if adjusting a mannequin. The conversation, as it often does with Martinez, revolved around a teammate’s mechanics, and how to lock in a swing that would permit Devers to get to a more productive form.
That Martinez was entertaining such a conversation inside of Chase Field seemed appropriate. After all, it was during a three-month tenure with the Diamondbacks that Martinez learned how to become a culture-changing voice.
Though Martinez broke out as a hitter with the Tigers in 2014 following a radical swing overhaul, with Detroit, the outfielder remained deferential. The Tigers were the team of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. J.D. Martinez did not want to overstep his role.
But after the Diamondbacks traded for him in mid-July of 2017, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt let Martinez know that his feedback — whether on technical aspects of his teammates’ swings or on gameplanning for opposing pitchers — could be game-changing. Martinez discovered a role that he loved.
“When I came [to Arizona], I was relatively quiet. I came from a veteran clubhouse. I was a lot more to myself, quiet, really didn’t speak out,” said Martinez. “Goldy did a really good job of kind of opening me up, kind of showing me the next step of growing and becoming a leader, taking responsibility in the clubhouse, sharing your thoughts and ideas because they might help someone. He really pushed me to open up. I think it really helped me.”
It certainly helped the Diamondbacks. Martinez was a monster in the middle of the Arizona lineup down the stretch, hitting .302/.366/.741 with a mind-blowing 29 homers in 62 games after the trade. Yet his impact was felt beyond that.
“He transformed our clubhouse and our culture that season,” said Arizona assistant GM Jared Porter.
Martinez loved his time with the Diamondbacks, helping Arizona win a wild-card game before getting knocked out of the playoffs by the Dodgers. He would have loved to return, but the Diamondbacks didn’t have the resources to make a run at keeping him.
“I loved it. I really did want to come back. It was something I told my agent that I was definitely up for,” said Martinez. “Obviously, it’s a business. Things don’t work out. I found a home in Boston and I couldn’t be happier.”
The Red Sox are likewise thrilled that they were able to add Martinez to their mix on a five-year, $110 million deal after his brief run with Arizona, with the team benefiting considerably from both his game-changing offensive abilities and his newfound presence as a leader.
“He’s the one in the cage, in the hitting room, in the meetings, he’s always talking about his gameplan, talking about the opposition,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “He loves it. That’s why he’s become the leader of this team.”
Reunion in the desert
A massive reunion of former and current Red Sox took place on the field during batting practice. Among the Diamondbacks coaches, players, and personnel to check in with their former club were: manager Torey Lovullo (the Red Sox bench coach under John Farrell from 2013-16), GM Mike Hazen (formerly the Red Sox GM), Porter (formerly the Red Sox director of pro scouting), assistant GM Amiel Sawdaye (a VP of international and amateur scouting with the Sox), assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske (a Sox first baseman and outfielder), mental skills coach Daniel Bard (a former Sox pitcher), and special assistant to the GM Burke Badenhop (who pitched for the Sox in 2014).
Pedroia making strides
In the second game of his rehab assignment for Single A Greenville, second baseman Dustin Pedroia went 1 for 2 before being replaced at second base in the top of the sixth inning. It marked the first time that Pedroia had played in back-to-back games since his three-game big league stint last May.
Pedroia is now 3 for 5 with a walk in two games with Greenville. He’s scheduled to take Saturday off, and then play another full game on Sunday, after which the team will reassess his status. If everything goes well in his ongoing buildup toward the season, it’s possible that Pedroia could be activated from the injured list for the Red Sox’s home opener on Tuesday.
Johnson likely for Sunday
Before Friday’s game, Cora announced that lefthander Brian Johnson was likely to get the start on Sunday, but that plan appeared to be scrapped when Johnson entered the game in relief of Porcello in the fifth inning. Johnson got lit up for seven runs in 1⅓ innings. Cora identified Hector Velazquez as the other rotation option for Sunday . . . With the Red Sox playing in a National League park, Jackie Bradley Jr. had the day off Friday while Martinez patrolled rightfield. Martinez will have Saturday off, and Mookie Betts will rest on Sunday.