Martinez suffered a freak injury in Sunday’s Game No. 162 when he sprained his left ankle tripping over the second-base bag while running out to play right field in the bottom of the fifth inning, and the injury has sidelined him for the first game of the 2021 MLB postseason.
“Not great, obviously. He'll be the best assistant hitting coach in the world tonight,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “That's the way we see it. He got treatment yesterday, we talked to him this morning. It's a lot different than the regular season, where you can make decisions until game time, but here, we have to submit our roster at 10 a.m.
“He tried last night in his room to see his balance and where he was, and he's a 'no.' The goal is hopefully we can do what we do, play a good baseball game and advance, and see where we're at for the next round.”
With Martinez unable to go, Kyle Schwarber was the designated hitter. That at least allowed Cora to start the game with his best defensive alignment, which had Bobby Dalbec at first, Christian Arroyo at second, Alex Verdugo in left and Kiké Hernández in center.
If the Red Sox move on to the AL Division Series to face the Rays, Game 1 is Thursday night. Would Martinez be available?
“That’s the hope. For him not to post, it’s very serious,” said Cora. “It is what it is. That thing looks huge. Humongous. He’ll get treatment today. We’ll go from there. But for tonight, it was a no.”
Losing a player like Martinez in such a big game is something the Red Sox are equipped to deal with. In late August and early September, they lost several key players to COVID, including Xander Bogaerts, Chris Sale and Hernández. The Red Sox withstood that situation and advanced to the postseason.
“We've dealt with adversity all year long,” Hernández said. “We've dealt with doubts, we've dealt with pretty much everything. And it almost seems -- like, not fitting -- but it's almost like, well, that was the one thing that was going to happen for the Wild Card Game, we don't have J.D.
“But we've done it all year. Now, here we are in the Wild Card Game, we're ready. We're excited, and with or without J.D., we're going to go out there and we're going to do everything we can to win this ballgame. We don't have one of our best hitters, but we're going to grind through it and we're going to find a way to win this game.”
The 34-year-old Martinez had a solid bounce-back season at the plate, hitting .286 with 28 homers, 99 RBIs and an .867 OPS. He also tied for the Major League lead with 42 doubles.
That all came on the heels of hitting just .213 with seven home runs over 54 games in the abbreviated 2020 campaign.
Martinez's return to form this season earned him his fourth career All-Star appearance and helped anchor a Red Sox offense that ranked fifth in the Majors in runs per game (5.1) and third in team OPS (.777).
Along with his impact on Boston's lineup, Martinez has also faced Gerrit Cole -- New York's starting pitcher for Tuesday's win-or-go-home showdown -- more than any other Red Sox player. Martinez is 6-for-28 (.214) with two homers and six walks, good for a .343 on-base percentage and a .843 OPS in 35 career plate appearances against Cole, including the postseason.
Without Martinez, Cora switched up his lineup -- left-handed-hitting Schwarber and right-handed Hernández flip-flopped in the first and second spots, with Schwarber bating leadoff. And the No. 3-4 combo of Rafael Devers and Bogaerts was also switched, with Devers moving up.
Verdugo, who has been strong against right-handed pitchers (.321/.392/.501) this season, moved up to Martinez’s customary No. 5 spot.
Cora’s final four hitters were all right-handed in Hunter Renfroe, Kevin Plawecki, Dalbec and Arroyo, though he also had left-handed hitters Travis Shaw and Jarren Duran available as pinch-hitters.