Retired Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez likes what he sees from his former team.
The three-time Cy Young winner — who pitched seven seasons in Boston — said he’s amazed by the roster’s combination of youth and talent.
“They’re all superstars already at such an early time,” Martinez told Boston.com. “It’s like premature stardom for those guys. It’s amazing to watch the display of talent they have, how well they handle it, and how well prepared these kids are. Back in my days, you reach maturity in baseball probably at 27, 28 [years old].”
The Red Sox have been powered by a starting lineup that features several players 25 years old or younger, including third baseman Rafael Devers (21), outfielder Andrew Benintendi (23), outfielder Mookie Betts (25), and shortstop Xander Bogaerts (25).
“The most impressive thing about this team, I think, is how relaxed they are when it comes to performing at such a young age,” Martinez said. “You don’t expect those guys to have that maturity. And they do. They face it the right way, they relax, and they’re very professional for young players.”
Boston has also relied on veteran leadership from players 30 years old or older, including Mitch Moreland (32), Craig Kimbrel (30), and J.D. Martinez (30). Martinez called the team’s balance one of their biggest strengths.
“We have enough experience with enough youth to stay energetic and to have fun,” he said. “We’re very, very, very well-balanced.”
Martinez also praised Boston’s mix of defense, speed, and power, before identifying some potential areas of improvement. With reliever Carson Smith out for the rest of the season and the statuses of starters Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz in flux, he believes the Red Sox bullpen could benefit from some additional depth.
“If we’re going to need help, it’s probably going to be the end of the bullpen,” Martinez said. “If the starting rotation remains healthy, I think the end of the bullpen will probably be the only place we’re going to need to add a little bit more strength.”
As an assistant to president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, Martinez said it’s been a rewarding, albeit different, experience to “watch the game from the outside” and work with players.
“I already went through what they are going through,” he said. “So it’s nice to have the opportunity to approach different players, approach different things, and also understand how the office works in order for all that to be put together.”
Here are a few of his observations:
On Chris Sale comparisons: “They make me proud . . . Having the opportunity to watch Chris Sale go about his business is quite amazing. Now I know why people got so excited when I was doing my things.”
On J.D. Martinez-Manny Ramirez comparisons: “Yeah, I see it . . . But this guy is a lot more centered than Manny was. This guy is really smart, kind of quiet. Manny was all over the place, but Manny was as good of a hitter as he is — and maybe even better. There’s a lot of stuff that you can compare between J.D. and Manny.”
On the decision to designate Hanley Ramirez for assignment: “It’s unfortunate baseball has a little dark side, and that’s the business part of it. Everybody looks out for their own interest when it comes to that, and I think, this time, it fell on Hanley. But it was just a business decision. I think the team needed to make a move, needed to make it in the safest way possible, and it fell on Hanley. That’s all. Nobody has to take it personal. It was just a business decision.”
On Alex Cora as a manager: “Outstanding. I mean, he’s surpassed the expectations that I had about him. I think the team has really taken him well, and I think he’s doing an outstanding job for a first-year manager and also a very young manager. His baseball IQ is off the charts. I mean, the way he has a team relaxed playing is outstanding. So everything right now he’s an A+.
“I didn’t think he would handle being a first-year manager with such a grace. I thought he was going to be more uptight, but so far, he’s surprised me big time with the way he handles it, with the way he handles the media, and especially the time he spends around the players in the field. For a young manager, you don’t expect him to be so attached to the field. And he is. He’s very professional.”
On his prediction for the postseason: “I believe in games, so we have to go out there and play. That’s the main reason why you play 162 games because you can’t predict [what’s going to happen]. But I’m expecting the team to stay healthy and to battle anybody in the American League because we have that much talent.”
On his advice for the team: “I would just say do what you are supposed to do. Put it behind you and look forward to the next. That was my strategy. There are stats about me that I don’t even know — and still don’t know — because I was always looking forward to doing better every day. I wanted to just go about my business and put whatever I did yesterday behind me and look forward to the next. That’s probably the easiest way to approach a long season as well. You have to just look forward to the next game, look forward to the next game, and before you know it, you’re in September and going to the postseason. It will be a good way to distract yourself from the amount of work you’re putting on your body.”
On what makes playing in Boston different: “This fanbase just doesn’t give up on their team. That makes this fanbase the most unique fanbase, just like Fenway is the most unique stadium in all of baseball. I mean, everything about this stadium, everything about the tradition, everything about the way we go is different, it’s unique. And so are the fans. The fans are the most loyal fans I’ve ever seen in baseball because I saw our team let them down. A lot of times. And I can tell you from my own experience that I was never on top of that bump without a sell-out stadium. That’s loyalty. When you have your heart broken so many times and you have been let down so many times and you continue to remain loyal and faithful to your team, that’s a true fanbase. And that makes it the most unique fanbase.”
Martinez has been in and around the Boston area for the past few weeks to prepare for his second annual “Feast with 45,” which is scheduled to take place Friday at Fenway Park. Former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who also works with the team, is expected to be in attendance. All proceeds will benefit the Pedro Martinez Charity.
In addition to sampling dishes for his upcoming event, Martinez has been working with the Red Sox ahead of their nine-game road trip — which begins Friday against the Yankees. He also has plans to speak at two high school graduations and visit popular local spots, like Gloucester, Nantucket, and Portland.