Retired Red Sox slugger David Ortiz said he knew J.D. Martinez was going to do great things when he first saw him swinging during spring training.
“What he’s doing right now, I’m not surprised about what I’m seeing,” Ortiz told WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni & Fauria” Wednesday morning. “I noticed that in spring training. I saw him for about three or four days hitting batting practice every day. I walked out of that field like I just saw a ghost. That’s how impressed I was.”
Martinez — who signed a five-year, $110 million deal with the Red Sox in February — has been prolific in his first season in Boston. Through 107 games, he leads the league in home runs (34), runs batted in (97), and total bases (268). His batting average (.328) and on-base percentage (.394) are both at career bests.
Ortiz gave a shoutout to Martinez’s approach, intelligence, and work ethic, saying they are all “at the highest level.” Martinez is well-known for his diligent preparation tactics, which involve daily video reviews of his swing.
“He just wants to get better every day,” Ortiz said. “This is a guy who will go and hit batting practice after the game. Who the hell does that? [He’s] not playing around.”
Not only does Martinez’s commitment improve his own game, but it also, according to Ortiz, helps his teammates with theirs.
“I believe he’s just getting everybody around him better,” Ortiz told OMF. “If you see the big dog going at it like that, the rest of the squad, you know what they’re going to do. ‘I’ve got to get better, too.'”
Ortiz said the Red Sox have established a culture where the younger players and newcomers know exactly where to turn for guidance when they enter the clubhouse. He said the way players are following Martinez is the same way former Sox used to follow him, Nomar Garciappara, Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek, and others.
“They want to find out why a superstar is a superstar,” Ortiz said. “Smart players, that’s what they do. They be like, ‘J.D. Martinez, he’s the best hitter in the game right now. Let me see why he’s so good.’ That’s how you approach the game, you don’t waste your time. In the clubhouse, guys aren’t trying to waste their time. They’re trying to get better. … That has been the culture of this clubhouse.”