BOSTON -- In the midst of one of his best power surges of the season, Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez had to be scratched from the lineup a couple of hours before Monday night’s game against the Royals due to discomfort in his back.
With the Red Sox trying to snap an eight-game losing streak, it wasn’t the best news.
“His back is acting up, a little bit tight,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “This morning he felt it, got treatment, so I’m going to stay away from him. It is what it is. Not going to push him out there. Got to make sure he’s healthy. We’ll stay away from him and hopefully he’ll be ready for tomorrow.”
With Martinez’s exit from the lineup, Andrew Benintendi slotted into the cleanup spot. Christian Vazquez moved from catcher to DH, and Sandy Leon got the start behind the plate.
The right-handed hitting slugger has dealt with back spasms multiple times this season. He missed three games from April 26-28 and four games from May 20-23 due to back issues.
Over his last 10 games, Martinez has homered four times and has 10 RBIs. Since July 20, he is hitting .381 and certainly looked no worse for wear in the four-game series at Yankee Stadium over the weekend when he went 5-for-12 with a homer and a .588 on-base percentage.
“He felt it this morning,” said Cora. “When he got up, he called [head athletic trainer] Brad [Pearson]. He got here early, got treatment, it wasn’t great. So we’ll stay away from him.”
Moreland working on mechanics
Activated from the injured list July 23, first baseman Mitch Moreland hasn’t been the same hitter as he was before suffering a back injury and then a right quad ailment.
In seven games and 21 at-bats since his activation, Moreland has four hits and no homers. He was out of the lineup on Monday due to the Red Sox facing a lefty in Royals’ starter Mike Montgomery.
“Mechanically he’s a little off,” Cora said. “Swing-wise, he’s been working hard. I saw his session yesterday before the game. He got there early. All about balance with him. Seems like he’s pulling off.
“When Mitch is going good -- or lefties in general -- they start hitting the ball the other way, and he hasn’t been able to do that since he came back. Yesterday he worked on a few things balance-wise and hopefully the next time he starts he can start hitting the ball the other way.”
Cora: The narrative can change in a hurry
As swiftly as the Red Sox fell back in the standings -- going from a half-game up for the second Wild Card spot to 6 1/2 back in the span of eight days -- Cora thinks they can regain momentum just as quickly.
“We’ve got to come here and win series, that’s the bottom line. We win every series from now on and you put yourself in a good spot,” said Cora. “Doesn’t look great as far as math and percentages and all that. But I do believe we have talent and it’s just about putting a string of good pitching together.
“We did it for seven days, eight days, whatever it was. You saw what happened. We’re five days from turning this around. The guys pitch well five days in a row, I think the narrative changes. We have to do it. We can’t talk about it the whole time, like ‘We’ll be fine, we’ll be fine, we’ll be fine.’ No, right now we’re not fine. And we know it.
“We just have to pitch better. Put better at-bats and play baseball. Better baseball. That’s the bottom line. I mean, it’s not a great spot, obviously, but they’re in good spirits and ready to play.”