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RED SOX NOTEBOOK

Martinez remains confident

It's bad outing, not bad start

CLEVELAND -- The numbers tell one story: Pedro Martinez is off to the slowest start in his seven seasons with the Red Sox.

Martinez tells another story, fully confident that his early inconsistency -- epitomized by the Rangers roughing him up Saturday for six runs in four innings -- is a springboard to better days ahead.

"It was just one bad outing," Martinez said, briefly suspending his ban on public discourse. "I don't feel like I have anything to prove."

Martinez, who will pitch the series finale tonight against Cleveland ace C.C. Sabathia, is 3-2 with a 4.17 ERA through six starts as he approaches free agency. He had not lost more than one of his first six decisions or recorded an ERA higher than 3.67 through his first six starts with the Sox before this year.

Opponents have hit .261 against him, the highest average he has allowed in his first six starts with the Sox (the previous high was .211 in 1999). And his strikeout ratio of 7.61 per nine innings is the lowest of his first six starts in any season. The figure has steadily dropped from a high of 13.81 in 2001.

Manager Terry Francona suggested great pitchers can get off to choppy starts, just like great hitters.

"It's not necessarily always perfect," Francona said. "I think he'll continue to get better, which probably means more consistency."

If Martinez should be eager to face any particular team, it would be the Indians. He is 10-1 with a 1.66 ERA in 14 career starts against the Tribe and 5-0, 1.88 in six starts at Jacobs Field. The only time he faced the Indians last year, he pitched seven shutout innings.

Francona expects Martinez to find his stride soon.

"If I could bottle it, I would," the manager said. "Hitters, pitchers, athletes, they're human. And it does happen like that sometimes."

When it does happen, Francona foresees Martinez matching his usual excellence.

"I don't know how many different ways I can say it," Francona said. "I know when it's over he's going to be good. The numbers are going to be right where they need to be."

The Indians were so pumped up about the matchup between Martinez and Sabathia that they published a "tale of the tape" comparison. Sabathia is 1-0 with a 1.61 ERA in four starts this season. Through their first 100 career starts, Martinez, 32, was 46-30 with a 3.38 ERA, while Sabathia, 23, was 44-25 with a 4.00 ERA.

Jones injured

The Sox lost first base coach Lynn Jones for at least a few games to an eye injury he suffered working on a water softener at his home in Conneautville, Pa., about 90 miles east of Cleveland. Jones lost control of a screwdriver, which stuck him in the eye. He was taken to the Cleveland Clinic, where he was expected to receive stitches.

"It's got a chance to be serious," Francona said. "I hope it's not. I don't know the technical terms, but he was able to see light. That's a very good sign."

Once Jones is well enough to travel, he was expected to return to Boston and be examined at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. Hitting coach Ron Jackson will assume Jones's duties in the short term.

If the injury sidelines Jones longer, Francona said, the Sox may call up a coach from the minors to help.

Back to work

Closer Keith Foulke said he was ready to pitch last night after a back spasm had sidelined him for three days, and he finished the Sox' 9-5 victory with a scoreless ninth inning. "It gets to a certain point where I need to get back out there," he said. "You start kind of losing it a little bit." . . . The Sox took strong exception to Yankee boss George Steinbrenner's comments about Larry Lucchino to Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated. "I have nothing against him except I wouldn't want him in my foxhole," Steinbrenner said. "Look at Lucchino's history. In San Diego, he ruined that guy out there [owner John Moores]. He ruined Eli Jacobs [the former Orioles owner]. He's not my kind of guy. Not a good man." Lucchino was traveling and not available to comment, but Sox officials said he played no role in Moores's legal problems or Jacobs's financial woes. Lucchino, at Moores's invitation, recently tossed the ceremonial first pitch at San Diego's new Petco Park, and Lucchino plans to return the hospitality when the Padres visit Fenway June 8-10 . . . Bronson Arroyo, who effectively began his stint this season as a regular member of the bullpen by picking up the win, paid his first visit before the game to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. An amateur musician, Arroyo was so impressed he may return today . . . The Sox are 14-0 when they take a lead into the ninth inning. Sox relievers, whose 2.17 ERA is the best in the majors, have tossed 9 2/3 scoreless innings against the Indians . . . David Ortiz's two-homer game was the ninth of his career and his first since Sept. 24 against the Orioles. His four RBIs also matched a career high. He is four homers shy of 100 for his career . . . Jason Varitek (2 for 4) is batting .462 (12 for 26) with a double, three homers, and nine RBIs over his last eight games . . . The Sox committed three errors in the third inning (a bad pickoff throw by Byung Hyun Kim and bobbles by Mark Bellhorn and Gabe Kapler) but yielded only one run . . . The official scorer made a late change, taking an error away from Cleveland catcher Victor Martinez in the ninth inning and crediting Varitek with an RBI on his single that drove in Manny Ramirez . . . From Chuck Waseleski, the Maniacal One: Sox hitters have fanned nine or more times in 12 of their first 27 games. Last season, they struck out nine or more times in a total of only 20 games . . . All-Star balloting will begin at Fenway Park tomorrow when the Sox open a six-game homestand against the Royals. The Sox have eight players on the ballot: outfielders Ramirez, Johnny Damon, and Trot Nixon, first baseman Kevin Millar, second baseman Pokey Reese, shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, third baseman Bill Mueller, and catcher Varitek. Ballots can be picked up throughout Fenway or at Wal-Marts throughout New England. Online balloting is under way at mlb.com and redsox.com. 

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