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Martinez picks it up after a dropping-down

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / May 18, 2010

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NEW YORK — Even for Terry Francona, a manager who likes to make sure his hitters have been given every chance to turn it around in their customary spot in the order, it was time for Victor Martinez to be moved down. So, instead of hitting in his usual No. 3 spot last night against the Yankees, the catcher was dropped to fifth.

By the end of last night’s 11-9 loss to the Yankees, in which Martinez broke out of his slump with two solo home runs, it appeared the catcher might be ticketed for a return to his usual spot. Martinez ended an 0-for-19 skid with homers in the sixth and eighth innings.

“They were two hits,’’ Martinez said. “At the same time we’re still losing the game.’’

It was the fourth multihomer game of Martinez’s career and the third time he’s gone deep from both sides of the plate in the same game. He’s the sixth member of the Sox to do so, and first since Jason Varitek Aug. 16, 2005.

“I think it started as a small mechanical thing, his stride was really long, and he’s such a good, handsy hitter lefthanded that he wasn’t using his hands,’’ hitting coach Dave Magadan said. “So I think he’s been a little better lately, but I think you get to a point where you start trying to get three hits in one at-bat. He gets a little bit anxious. He hit some balls hard that didn’t fall in for him. Maybe alleviate some of the load on his shoulders by dropping him down in the lineup.’’

Martinez did not seem bothered by the lineup move before the game, and proved it with his bat.

“You still have to go out there and put in good at-bats,’’ he said. “I don’t think it’s taking pressure off. If I know [what the problem is], I might be out of it. I just keep working on it. The only thing I can control is just come here, keep working, keep working, and see what happens.’’

Asked if his contract situation was playing into the slump, Martinez said, “No. When that comes to my mind is when people like you come and say it. But I don’t really pay attention to it. I just come to the ballpark every day and work. That’s it.’’

Magadan said Martinez might be feeling the pressure to produce, especially as the Sox have been struggling to win. He has hit adequately at home (.284, 3 homers, 14 RBIs), but had been awful on the road before last night (.135, 0, 3), and has watched his offense sink even further in May than it had in April.

“I think any time you’re playing for the Boston Red Sox and you’re hitting third and you’re not doing what you feel like you’re capable of doing, you want to do some things to help the team win,’’ Magadan said. “He’s got a lot of pride in what he does. He’s such a team guy. When we don’t win and he goes 0-fer, he takes it hard. It’s not as big of a deal, I don’t think, for him when we’re winning games and we’re not getting hits ’cause he takes pride in the fact that we’re winning.

“He puts a lot of it on his shoulders, and hopefully we can get him going. We need him.’’

Thanks for pitching in
Tim Wakefield threw 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief and was in line to get the win after the Sox took a 9-7 lead in the eighth, but it wasn’t to be. Wakefield, who became the oldest reliever to pitch more than two innings against the Yankees in New York (it was Hoyt Wilhelm in 1967), had many teammates coming up to him in the postgame clubhouse and shaking his hand.

“It went well,’’ he said. “I was able to throw a lot of strikes. It’s just pitching. I have to do the same things whether I start or relieve.’’

Wakefield was in the clubhouse during the final inning. Asked how hard it was to watch the Yankee comeback, he said, “I have no control over that.’’

Delay for Cameron
Though it was thought Mike Cameron might be activated today, the outfielder will need more time to come back from the lower abdominal strain that has kept him out since April 19. Cameron spent yesterday in Boston, and will remain there today instead of joining the team.

“I don’t think we think he’s quite ready. I think he agrees with that,’’ Francona said. “He’s tender a little bit in his abdominal region. Not where he got hurt, just tender. He’s done a lot of work, and I think we just want to make sure when we bring him off that he’s ready to play.’’

Cameron did some work at Fenway yesterday with trainer Jim Rowe, and is expected to do more today. He might play tomorrow in the minors, likely in Portland.

Asked if Cameron will need surgery, Francona said, “No, that’s why we’re not activating him tonight. We don’t want it to get to a point where he ever would need surgery.

“I think the word the doctors used was it wasn’t acute. Which means, I think, that’s why we’re trying to do this right where he does come back, he can play every day or pretty much every day, not have to think about [it] and certainly not need surgery.

“We want to make sure he’s ready.’’

Ellsbury update
Francona reported on the status of Jacoby Ellsbury after his first rehab start yesterday. “Said he was a little tentative in his first two at-bats, and then really he felt good as he got into the game,’’ Francona said.

Ellsbury went 1 for 3 with a walk, two runs, and an RBI as Pawtucket’s designated hitter. Ellsbury, who has been out since April 11 with four fractured ribs, will play the outfield today in Double A Portland.

Elusive outs
It’s clear, especially on defense, that the Sox have missed both Cameron and Ellsbury. There were more examples last night, with four balls that could have been caught by outfielders but were not — two by Jeremy Hermida and two by Darnell McDonald. The balls that got by McDonald were a double by Mark Teixeira in the second inning and a double by Brett Gardner in the ninth, on which McDonald dove in a futile attempt to snag the ball. The hit preceded the tying two-run homer by Alex Rodriguez, which was followed by Marcus Thames’s two-run shot. “That’s why I dove for it,’’ McDonald said. “Because I thought I could catch it. Two runs, trying to keep the leadoff guy off base. Took a chance.’’ Asked about the outfield defense overall, McDonald said, “Guys are busting their [butts] out there, and plays aren’t getting made.’’ . . . A late scratch Sunday with knee soreness, Dustin Pedroia was back in the lineup. He went 1 for 3 with two walks and scored a run . . . Josh Beckett takes the mound tonight for the first time since he allowed nine runs to the Yankees May 7. Beckett missed his last start because of back spasms suffered while taking batting practice.

Peter Abraham of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.

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