Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Fierce passion, prep helping J.D. thrive with Sox

Slugger excelling in first year in Boston spotlight: 'I've never seen anybody prepare like him'
MLB.com

NEW YORK -- J.D. Martinez needed only to glance around the clubhouse to find examples of high-profile acquisitions who have struggled in their Red Sox debut seasons. There's starter Rick Porcello, Martinez's former teammate on the Tigers, who had a rough first year in Boston in 2015 following a trade from Detroit before capturing the American League Cy Young Award the following season. 

Another starter who played with Martinez in Detroit, former AL Cy Young Award winner David Price, had mixed results during the 2016 regular season and then had a rough outing in that year's postseason after signing with the Red Sox for seven years and $217 million. He has yet to fully find his footing. 

NEW YORK -- J.D. Martinez needed only to glance around the clubhouse to find examples of high-profile acquisitions who have struggled in their Red Sox debut seasons. There's starter Rick Porcello, Martinez's former teammate on the Tigers, who had a rough first year in Boston in 2015 following a trade from Detroit before capturing the American League Cy Young Award the following season. 

Another starter who played with Martinez in Detroit, former AL Cy Young Award winner David Price, had mixed results during the 2016 regular season and then had a rough outing in that year's postseason after signing with the Red Sox for seven years and $217 million. He has yet to fully find his footing. 

Others who have come and gone -- Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval -- have cautionary tales of their own. 

:: ALCS schedule and results ::

Yet in his first season as a member of the Red Sox, Martinez has seemed immune to the pressures of playing in Boston -- the high expectations and intense media scrutiny -- that have foiled newcomers before him. 

After signing a five-year, $110 million contract with the Red Sox in February, the slugger flirted with a Triple Crown, leading the Majors with 130 RBIs and finishing second in batting average (.330) and home runs (43). In the process, he joined Hall of Famers Ted Williams (1949) and Jimmie Foxx (1936, '38) as the only players in franchise history to hit at least .330 with 40-plus homers and 130-plus RBIs in a season. His 43 homers are a record for a player in his first year with the club. 

In the AL Division Series against the Yankees, in which Boston prevailed in four games, Martinez went 5-for-14 with a home run, six RBIs and three walks and didn't strike out once.

Playing for multiple clubs prior to joining the Red Sox, says Martinez, helped his transition to Boston. After being released in 2014 by the Astros -- the Red Sox's opponent in the upcoming AL Championship Series -- Martinez signed with Detroit, where he played until a midseason trade sent him to the D-backs last year. 

Video: NYY@BOS Gm1: Martinez drills 3-run HR in 1st on TBS

"Part of it was I bounced around a bit and I was used to the new scene," said Martinez, who hit a three-run home run in Game 1 of the ALDS. "The other half was the guys on the team and [rookie manager] Alex Cora. This is a team without any egos. Everyone here is just a humble group of guys. And everyone is just kind of pushing for each other. And it's just an easy fit. It was an easy situation to come into." 

• Cora aced first postseason test with Red Sox

Cora, who was hired last November, says he and Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski met with Martinez and agent Scott Boras for an hour and a half during the 2017 Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Cora, who was part of the 2007 Red Sox team that won the World Series, walked away convinced that Martinez would do well in Boston because he is as intense about baseball as the fan base. 

"After the meeting, I told Dave, I said, 'This kid, he'll be fine, because of the way they talk about the game, how passionate he is about it,'" recalled Cora. "With J.D., it's baseball 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This kid, his preparation and the way he goes about the game is amazing. I had no doubts that he was going to be fine. 

"We play in a city that's very passionate about sports. They talk about the Red Sox, especially now, 24 hours a day. For him, it's just a regular day because he's so passionate about the game."

Video: J.D. Martinez carries the freight for Red Sox in ALDS

Dombrowski, the former president and general manager of the Tigers who has known Martinez from his Detroit days, is not surprised to see the 31-year-old outfielder and designated hitter thriving in Boston and influencing his teammates. 

"I knew the type of work ethic and his philosophy on baseball, his passion for getting better on a consistent basis," said Dombrowski. "So he came across in that meeting very well. He presented himself very well. It didn't surprise me because, again, I knew him. 

"But then as it's worked out over the year, you can see that the players have seen the passion he has to get better on a daily basis. And he doesn't force himself on people. He just works hard and they talk hitting and they attract, so he really has been in a leadership-type role in that regard for us."  

Martinez, who carries around a bag of "toys" -- a Frisbee, a kickball, elastic bands and other tools he uses to keep his swing in tip-top shape -- has earned the admiration of his peers with his tireless approach and willingness to help, making his transition into the Red Sox's clubhouse as seamless as his insertion into the lineup. 

Video: NYY@BOS Gm1: Martinez discusses his plate approach

"I've never seen anybody prepare like him," said Boston ace Chris Sale, who faced Martinez on a regular basis when the lefty pitched for the White Sox. "The focus, the attention to detail. He can tell you what someone threw to him in Spring Training in 2012 in the seventh inning in a 4-3 ballgame. He knows his stuff. Once he gets locked in, he's in the zone.

"Obviously we do have a good team. We do have a great coaching staff. We do have a very good group of guys in here, but he puts in the work here, no question about that."

"His personality is one that everybody likes," said Red Sox outfielder and AL MVP Award frontrunner Mookie Betts. "He has a lot of knowledge. He's been around the game for a long time. He doesn't mind sharing his knowledge. Obviously, putting up great numbers too, that always helps."

Nathalie Alonso is an editorial producer for LasMayores.com, the Spanish-language website for MLB.com.

Boston Red Sox, J.D. Martinez