FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox ace Chris Sale and star slugger J.D. Martinez had an important ramp-up day on Sunday, as they had their first game action of any kind this spring in a "controlled" Minor League camp game.The controlled aspect of it was that innings could end whenever
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox ace Chris Sale and star slugger J.D. Martinez had an important ramp-up day on Sunday, as they had their first game action of any kind this spring in a "controlled" Minor League camp game.
The controlled aspect of it was that innings could end whenever the team decided, based on pitch count or game situation, and Martinez could bat every inning.
The most important thing is that Sale and Martinez (3-for-3, three walks, double) both seemed to get a lot out of it.
Sale threw 52 pitches over four innings, allowing one hit and a walk while striking out five. More than one Minors hitter could be heard audibly groaning when one of Sale's nasty sliders dove into catcher Sandy Leon's mitt. Toward the end of the week, Sale will make his Grapefruit League debut.
By design, Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie has brought up Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello at a slower pace this spring to make sure they all are at their best at the most important time of the season.
"Really good," said Sale. "It felt a little different with the style, rolling over and stuff like that, but I know it's all part of the grand plan and being able to control the buildup a little bit. It went well, though."
And the lack of a crowd didn't diminish Sale's competitive fire. You might have heard by now that he is self-motivated.
"Personally, I get a lot out of it," Sale said. "Anytime I get on the mound, I'm not there messing around. There's no, 'Oh, this is just a side session,' 'This is just a live BP,' whatever. This is work to get better. Maybe adrenaline can take it a little higher, obviously the energy in the ballpark can raise it, but it doesn't make your effort really go down.
"I enjoy it. I appreciate the guys going out there and putting it all together for me and other guys to get our work in. There's never a time you go out there lackadaisical and not thinking that this is going to be a step in the right direction towards getting better and getting prepared."
Martinez, who signed with the Red Sox six days ago, was happy just to be back in the batter's box in a game situation.
It didn't take Martinez long to get comfortable. After walking in his first at-bats, he smashed a double to the fence in right. Then he walked the next two times up before belting a single to right and another single up the middle.
"Definitely, it was good to get some live pitching and start seeing the ball a little bit," Martinez said.
No date has been set for Martinez's Grapefruit League debut, though Wednesday or Thursday could be a logical estimate.
"Probably [this] week," said Martinez. "Obviously running now, trying to move a little bit. These guys all did that the first two weeks. Depending on how the body feels, stuff like that. Today, I felt good. I was running, felt fine. We'll just take it day by day."
Martinez doesn't necessarily think he needs to slot in at designated hitter before he plays the outfield.
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"Hand in hand. About the same," Martinez said. "Obviously, I'm probably going to be shaky in the outfield at first, but that's what Spring Training is for. We'll see."
Eduardo Nunez, another free agent who signed after camp opened, also got his first game action this spring, going 1-for-4.
And rather than making the trip to Sarasota, Fla., to play the Orioles, Hanley Ramirez stayed back and went 3-for-5 in the Minors game, while Leon went 1-for-3.
"[J.D.] hit that double off the wall, I was like, 'Hey, good call, guys.' I thought this was good for everyone," said Sale. "Hanley looked great, got a couple of hits. Sandy same thing, hitting a double, Nuney, getting his work in. This is all good stuff. It's a controlled environment. It's not a real game, if you will, but you're still getting work in, seeing pitches, seeing hitters in there. Just trying to get prepared and get ready for the season."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.