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Martinez held hitless in debut with Red Sox

Slugger keeping expectations in check, doesn't feel pressure
Special to MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- J.D. Martinez made his highly anticipated Grapefruit League debut for the Red Sox on Wednesday, batting cleanup and playing left field in the Red Sox's 8-1 loss to the Twins.

Martinez, who signed with the Red Sox on Feb. 26, went 0-for-2, playing four defensive innings.

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- J.D. Martinez made his highly anticipated Grapefruit League debut for the Red Sox on Wednesday, batting cleanup and playing left field in the Red Sox's 8-1 loss to the Twins.

Martinez, who signed with the Red Sox on Feb. 26, went 0-for-2, playing four defensive innings.

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"It's a Spring Training game, so he needs his reps," manager Alex Cora said. "But to see him out there, actually to see him around, spend time with him, it's a lot different than the last week. We've been on the road so much since he signed [that] we haven't been able to connect. So to have him in the lineup, have him in the dugout, that's good -- not only for me, but for everybody."

Facing Twins right-hander Jake Odorizzi, Martinez flied out to right field to end the first inning and flied out to center for the first out of the fourth with Hanley Ramirez on first base.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"Seeing the ball, just going up there and trying to slow the ball down as best as I can and swing at strikes," Martinez said of what he was focusing on in his first game. "Really, that's all I was really worried about, just get a pitch over the plate and put a good swing on it.

"It felt good. It was fun. You don't realize how much you miss something until you can't do it and you haven't been able to do it for a while. So it was fun to get out there."

Martinez knows there will be tremendous expectations on him this season, but he's keeping that in check.

"I feel like you guys have the expectations, the fans and the media," he said. "Really, I'm just going to go out there and play my game and do what I've been doing for the last four or five years. As far as the pressure and stuff goes, I'm just going to try to go out there and play my game. Obviously, ignore it, stuff like that. Obviously, playing in Boston, it's a big market, so there's going to be a lot more, but I think it'll be a good test of handling it."

Martinez had gotten at-bats on the back fields of the Red Sox's Spring Training complex before making his Grapefruit League debut on Wednesday. He said he typically needs about 60-80 spring at-bats to feel good.

"He already has like 15 at-bats on the back fields and he faced some good competition," Cora said. "The only difference is the stadium and he's playing defense, but this is a guy that works on his craft. This whole week just watching video, in the cage, hitting outside, asking for live BP, he prepares, and there's a reason for that. He was designated for assignment four years ago [by the Astros], and now he's going to hit in the middle of the lineup for the Boston Red Sox, with a team that has a chance to win the World Series.

"So there's no coincidence that he's been successful the last few years, because he found it and he keeps working on it. So this is just part of his preparation. ... Usually early in camp, it's you play one game, the next day off. With him, this will be his second start in a row if you add the at-bats yesterday. He'll DH tomorrow and have Friday off. But he wants his at-bats. He needs to prepare. I think this, for how exciting it is to have him here, it's just part of the process."

Martinez, 30, will be the Sox's primary designated hitter, but he is expected to get time in the field. While JetBlue Park has a replica of Fenway Park's Green Monster in left, it is not the same.

"He'll be fine," Cora said. "It's just getting used to it and this is not the same, with the net and how high it is. But he'll be fine. ... He has a good arm. It's just a matter of getting used to it. Just like hitting -- repetitions."

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com.

Boston Red Sox, J.D. Martinez