Pedro Martinez embraces role as Red Sox special assistant
Martinez has thrown himself into being a mentor to the Sox’ young pitchers
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Such players tend to talk about what worked for them, reflecting on their own experience. They can’t make the jump to what will work for others, pitchers being unique in their needs, abilities, and motions.
“A lot of times, guys who have that success and who are that good can’t communicate how they did it,” said Jon Lester. “And I think he does a good job of that. I’ve talked to guys in the past, they’re like, ‘This is how I did it.’ I’m like, ‘That’s great, but that doesn’t apply to me.’ I think Pedro gets that.”
In a well-documented moment last Monday, Martinez approached Daniel Bard, who struggled mightily in 2012. The pair talked about Bard’s arm slot, about what Martinez had done, about where Bard looks the best.
“He’s good at putting what he’s thinking into words,” Bard said. “He was really good at performing and doing it. Some guys aren’t able to explain what they’re doing as well. He’s definitely able to put into words, to express.
“He’s got good eyes for watching a pitcher and seeing different things in their mechanics. I think he has a talent for it.”
Still, there are things he can’t teach. There’s a desire, a need to be great, that he has little influence on. He pitched to eat, as his agent, Fernando Cuza, interjects.
When running laps as a young pitcher at the Dodgers academy in the Dominican Republic (he never minded running), Martinez would add an extra lap, an extra three, an extra five. To get him through those final yards, he would think of his mother.
“I said, ‘If I don’t finish this lap, my mom doesn’t eat,’ ” Martinez said. “I imagined my mom sitting on a chair, tied up with rope, and not eating until I finished my lap. You know what that did to my mental approach?”
That isn’t something that he can impress upon his pupils. It’s something unique to him. But he can offer an ear. He can make a suggestion, offered generally through Nieves. He can be a resource far more current than Luis Tiant, who — for all his success — doesn’t register with players in their early 20s the way Martinez does.
“It’s just another brain to pick, another person that’s got good information that you can pull from,” Lester said. “Nothing against Luis Tiant or Jim Rice, but [a voice] that’s relative to our generation.”
‘So much to give’
Martinez is only three years removed from his pitching days. His face looks a bit thicker, but the uniform still fits. And the urge comes sometimes, though he is clear about having no desire to return to play.
There was no one to play long toss with De La Rosa on Wednesday, so Martinez stepped in. He threw the ball back and forth, as De La Rosa put more distance between them. It was a spring day like so many in Martinez’s 18-year career. He felt the itch.
“I picked up the ball and I threw it and I’m like, ‘I want to keep going, I want to keep going,’ ” Martinez said. “It’s very tempting. I know I don’t want to play, but to go and play and catch and be a part of it.
“When I see them doing fundamentals and stuff, I have to get back and just watch from far away. Before you know it, I’ll be running and covering bases. I’m not supposed to do that.”
He’s not. He’s teaching now, taking his observations and using them for others, being exposed to another side of the game to find out where he fits. He could be seen talking to Cherington and a rotating cast — Jason Varitek, farm director Ben Crockett, Nieves — on the fields last week, his hand gestures animating the talks and fascinating the fans.
“He’s very interested in the way the arm works, how to train the body and position the body to do the things you want to do with the baseball,” Cherington said. “We want to try to take advantage of the wisdom and intelligence and passion and channel it in a way that helps our guys and makes sense.”
It has been different than Martinez expected, more fun. He said he thought he was going to be “a little bit bored.” That hasn’t been the case. He has enjoyed it, being taken in like another teammate, especially embraced by the young Latin pitchers, who he hopes will be able to open up to him.
“I don’t want the money,” Martinez said. “I don’t want anything. I don’t want credit. I just want to help them get better.
“I’m learning. I’m getting my feet wet about this. To me it’s a new experience, but at the same time if you ask me about baseball, I still have so much to give, mentally, and my experience is so valuable to some of those young pitchers. I would love to give it away.”