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Martinez one month in

Posted by Adam Kilgore, Globe Staff  September 1, 2009 05:42 PM

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Terry Francona has said he prefers Jason Varitek catching Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, but he chose Victor Martinez to catch Lester tonight for a handful of reasons.

Francona wants Varitek to catch Beckett tomorrow. Francona is unsure of what Thursday and Friday will hold for his lineup because the Chicago White Sox altered their pitching rotation.

Francona also said he “trying to put an offensive team on there” tonight and wants “mix and match” to maximize rest for both Martinez and Varitek.

One month into his Red Sox tenure, what has Martinez’s impact been on the pitching staff? Red Sox pitchers throwing to Martinez during his 16 games behind the plate (an admittedly limited sample size) have a combined ERA of 6.22. Four base stealers have attempted to steal on him, and all four have been successful.

There are signs Martinez is gaining comfort with the Sox’ staff. Saturday night, he caught Clay Buchholz’s finest outing this season, when Buchholz allowed one earned run on three hits while striking out nine in 8 1/3 innings. Martinez has actually caught Buchholz’s last six outings, four of which were quality starts. Buchholz is 2-2 with a 4.75 during the span.

“I think he’s done a good job, even from the beginning,” Francona said. “I can’t imagine that that’s real easy when you haven’t caught anybody. It certainly hasn’t been an issue. It hasn’t got in the way of us winning games or anything like that. He’s been real eager to ask questions and to learn. He catches guys’ sides.

“He’s been pretty good. Obviously, we feel pretty good about him, or we wouldn’t be catching him with a guy like Lester pitching.”

Since Martinez’s arrival, the Red Sox are 8-6 when Martinez starts at catcher and 8-6 when Varitek starts at catcher, identical records. (The Red Sox are 2-0 in the games Varitek started at catcher and Martinez entered late.)

Overall, the Sox are 16-12 since Martinez arrived. He has played in all but one game, and the Sox are 15-12 in games Martinez has appeared in.

His offensive production and effect on the lineup is undeniable. The Red Sox scored 5.89 runs per game in August, their highest total in any month this season and third best in the majors behind the Yankees (6.25) and Angels (6.21). The Sox’ second best month was April, when they averaged 5.73 runs.

Martinez’s 19 RBI ranked first among Red Sox in August, and his 33 hits ranked second, behind Jacoby Ellsbury’s 36.

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