Martinez now has other numbers in mind
DENVER -- There is a positive buzz around Pedro Martinez again. The fans are cheering his every pitch. When he starts, it's an event again.
If he's at peace with himself right now, it's because he's let all of the distractions go. He is not being emotional when it comes to his contract and his future in Boston. Martinez said last night that he has let that go and he deeply regrets the April 30 interview he gave in Texas, when he said his piece about becoming a free agent at the end of the season.
"I said some things that I should never have said," Martinez said about a half-hour before last night's game. "At that point I probably should have just shut my mouth. A lot of people misjudged that, the media fed on that. Some of the comments that were made gave it a different meaning.
"I'm actually all about winning, and instead of thinking about myself and my future, I should have just not said anything. I just wanted to accommodate the media because they had been waiting for me to say something and they were being very patient with me while I wasn't saying anything. I just wanted to say what was going on at the time and get you guys off my back."
When Martinez struggled out of the gate this season -- following a spring training littered with biting comments about ownership -- a cloud seemed to surround him. Now he's broken through the clouds. He's pitching well again. He's making adjustments on the fly. He's up to seven wins, and who's to say that thoughts of 20 are far off? Martinez emphasized last night that he is 100 percent engulfed in the concept of winning it all with this group.
"I never think Cy Young," Martinez said. "I'm just thinking consistency right now. I'm just thinking about what my outings mean to the team. I'm just going along with the effort that everybody is making to win it all, particularly this year.
"I'm not going to let any other thing distract me from our team winning."
He has fixed some of the mechanical deficiencies he had earlier in the year. Though he has always downplayed the velocity factor, even that is coming back. He dominated the Padres last week, allowing two hits over eight innings, then backed that up with a very good seven-inning outing against the Dodgers Sunday. His ERA (3.77) is inching down into a respectable area. And the fans, who never really turned on him but certainly were upset about the contract comments, are up on their feet cheering madly again.
"I thought that I always had the fans," said Martinez. "They know what kind of effort I put out there. I don't have anything bad to say against the fans."
Martinez concedes that he was affected by the weather early in the season. Since his shoulder injury in 2001, pitching in cold weather is different for him. He was once dominant, no matter what the month. Now, he says, he's had to change the way he gets loose and warms up to accommodate his shoulder. Yet he says his shoulder has never felt better. He's been able to absorb 100-plus pitches in most of his starts lately. He's even healthier than Curt Schilling right now.
Martinez is reinventing himself on the fly, and he is able to win while doing so. "Thank God that while I'm adjusting I'm able to pitch well enough where I can still compete like that," Martinez said. "But if a down year comes, people will just have to accept that and just understand that I'm out there trying hard. I'm trying my best out there. When it works that's great, but when it doesn't work, I'm still going to give people their money's worth."
He doesn't care for comparisons to his brother Ramon, whose career ended -- some thought prematurely -- because of a torn labrum. First of all, Martinez disputes all reports that he tore his labrum, and he said Ramon left the game for family reasons -- to save his marriage and because his young daughter wanted her father home. Martinez said his body and his brother's body are completely different, as are their throwing motions.
At 32, he said, he's relearning to pitch for the long haul. Maybe he won't blaze a 96-mile-per-hour fastball past a hitter, but he can get the job done in other ways. While he doesn't envision pitching at age 40, he doesn't see his career over at 35, either. And this is where the Red Sox will have to weigh the risk of offering a contract of more than two years.
"I'm waiting for my body to dictate to me how long I'm going to pitch," Martinez said. "I don't want to embarrass myself out there. I want to leave the game knowing I gave the best of myself."
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.