Even after a 108-win season, 43 home runs, and a World Series title, J.D. Martinez sees “room to grow” in 2019. David Ortiz, in Fort Myers for the weekend, believes Martinez and his Red Sox teammates are well-placed to do so — and repeat as champions in the process.
“Why not?” Ortiz told reporters Saturday, per MLB.com. “And the confidence level is even better than last year. You look at these guys. I’ve been talking to the hitter’s side, J.D. [Martinez], Mookie [Betts], [Xander] Bogaerts. I had a five-minute conversation with all of them and all they want to do is listen. They are in that beast mode where it’s beautiful. I love seeing that.”
The former Red Sox designated hitter described watching the current players do their stretching. When Ortiz was playing the team would mess around and talk trash during that part of practice, but he eavesdropped on his successors and heard nothing but talk about hitting.
“What that tells you is that these guys, they’re not trying to miss a beat. They’re not trying to waste their time,” he said. “These kids are acting like they finished the season in last place last year. I love that because that means they’re still hungry, they want more and they will get nothing but better and better and better.”
There he is!
(He’s still retired.) pic.twitter.com/scH1AC2aeV
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) March 2, 2019
Ortiz pointed to two players who are striving for perfection after stellar seasons in 2018. First, Martinez, the slugger who preaches the gospel of launch angle and has found a number of disciples in Boston’s lineup.
“J.D. is like the center… the mother hen, he’s the one who everybody is like getting feedback from, you know what I’m saying because he’s a psychopath,” Ortiz said. “This dude is on another level of being good and wanting to be better. That’s one thing I enjoy the most when I’m around here is just watching the way he handles himself and the way he helps the rest of the squad.”
Then there’s Mookie Betts, who won the AL MVP award with a .346 average and league-leading 1.078 OPS to accompany his Gold Glove defense. Ortiz noted he’s never seen anyone stay hot for seven months like Betts did last year.
“The only way you can accomplish something like that is number one, staying healthy which is one of the most important thing, and number two, pay attention,” he said. “Begin surrounded by people that do nothing but give you that positive vibe. Plus, you know Mookie. Mookie, he doesn’t want to be good. He wants to be perfect. That’s what makes him so good.”
All in all, Ortiz is picking up a positive vibe at spring training.
“To be honest with you, this ballclub looks so good, man, from head to toe,” Ortiz said. “It’s like you walk into that clubhouse and you can feel the good vibe, you can feel that. If there’s one person who can explain that, it’s myself because I was in the clubhouse for a long time, and I have an even better feeling this year than the feeling I had last year.
“And I told you guys how good I felt about the ballclub last year. But it’s because you can see on the players’ faces the experience they went through in the playoffs, what they learned, how confident you feel about how you did and the result and everything. I mean, as a player, I can tell you that plays a big role for the following season.”