BRADENTON, Fla. — Martin Perez had a chance to see Pedro Martinez throw a bullpen session when he was a minor leaguer back in 2009. But he was 18 then and too shy to speak to the pitcher he grew up idolizing.
Perez, now 28, finally had a chance to meet Martinez this month when the Hall of Famer arrived at Red Sox camp to help out with the pitchers.
They have spoken almost every day since, and Martinez has given Perez a few tips about using his legs to better stay in line with the plate as he gets into his delivery.
“Yeah, a lot,” Perez said when asked if that’s been helpful. “I think about it all the time. I like to talk to him a lot. He knows a lot when you ask him questions.”
Perez looked sharp in his spring training debut on Wednesday, giving up one unearned run in two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He walked one and struck out three.
Manager Ron Roenicke said Perez was hitting 94 to 95 miles per hour with his fastball.
Perez was 7-1 with a 2.95 earned run average in the first two months of last season when he was with the Twins. He was 3-6 with a 6.29 ERA after that.
“It’s just a matter of him figuring out really how he can get back to where he was the first half of last year,” Roenicke said. “Or how do we help him with maybe a pitch mix that gets him beyond that.”
The Sox, who signed Perez to a one-year, $6.5 million deal, want to see him use his swing-and-miss changeup more and cut back a little on using his cutter.
“His changeup is outstanding,” Roenicke said. “It’s a strikeout changeup.”
Perez is the No. 4 starter and the Sox need innings from him to shore up their questionable rotation.
Back to work
In Fort Myers, Chris Sale stayed out of the rain and threw 45 pitches over what amounted to two innings off a mound in the batting cages.
With pitching coach Dave Bush, assistant pitching coach Kevin Walker, head athletic trainer Brad Pearson, and sports sciences coordinator Mike Cianciosi watching, Sale worked with good intensity.
Roenicke said the next step would be for Sale to face hitters on Saturday. He likely would do that twice before being cleared for a game.
Sale missed the first week of workouts while recovering from pneumonia and the Sox have proceeded cautiously with their ace since.
There seems to be little chance he would be ready for Opening Day.
Roenicke got to chatting about 23-year-old outfield prospect Jarren Duran before the game. Duran has a .376 on-base percentage and 70 stolen bases in two seasons since being drafted out of Long Beach State but only eight home runs in 802 at-bats.
“It’s learning his swing and learning the strike zone, trying to figure out what kind of hitter he’s going to be,” Roenicke said. “He’s a lot stronger this year than he was last year. So I don’t know, maybe he starts driving balls. Which would be great with his speed, to hit balls in the gap and watch him run.
“I would think down the road, he’s going to have power.”
Two hours later, Duran went the other way with a fastball and homered to left field off well-regarded Pirates prospect Mitch Keller.
Duran finished 2 for 3 with a stolen base.
Ready to roll
Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who signed Feb. 19, is set to play in his first game on Thursday against Baltimore at JetBlue Park. He will be the designated hitter. Righthanded reliever Phillips Valdez, who was claimed off waivers from Seattle on Sunday, is scheduled to pitch in the same game. Valdez, 28, started his professional career with the Indians and has since bounced to the Nationals, Rangers, and now the Sox. He appeared in 11 games for Texas last season with a 3.94 ERA and, notably, 18 strikeouts over 16 innings. The Sox want Valdez to throw his slider more often and see where that takes him. Valdez has minor league options, which adds to the team’s roster flexibility . . . Rafael Devers, who missed a week when his daughter was born in the Dominican Republic, is scheduled to play his first game on Friday . . . Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski, 83, took the lineup card to the plate for the Pirates and received a nice hand from the crowd of 4,886.