Pitching staff getting tips from Pedro

Hall of Famer's ties with LeVangie empower him to do more at camp

February 16th, 2018

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- At one moment on Friday morning, arguably the best pitcher in Red Sox history was in a catcher's stance working with on flat ground.

About five minutes later, Pedro Martinez had moved to the bullpen where he spotted something slightly amiss with the position of 's feet.

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You have to be quick to follow Martinez around this Spring Training because he is ever-present for the pitchers, whether it be an ace like Chris Sale or a Minor League pitcher trying to make the team.

Martinez, who dominated for the Red Sox from 1998-2004, is now in his sixth season as a special instructor for the club.

Though Martinez isn't a full-time member of the coaching staff, there is nothing ceremonial about his role when he is on hand.

And Martinez feels enabled to be in the trenches more this year because his friend Dana LeVangie is the team's new pitching coach. LeVangie was a bullpen catcher for Boston during Martinez's entire pitching tenure with the team.

In past years, Martinez wasn't quite as assertive for fear he would be stepping on the toes of a pitching coach he didn't know as well in Carl Willis.

"Every year I do enjoy it. This year, it's special. I'm committed to helping out my friend Dana and the organization, and I have a little bit more leverage so I'm using it," said Martinez. "I'm using the leverage I have, and like always, just trying to help out in whatever way I can, and having fun with it too."

For the pitchers who grew up in awe of Martinez's greatness, it is a thrill to work with him.

"He's one of a kind," said Sale. "There's definitely no replicating that. Not only to the game, but to this team, to the fanbase. Pedro is one of the most genuine guys I've ever met. And he's more than willing to do anything for anybody, whether it's grabbing a cup of coffee in here, walking around during PFPs out there, he's here for us.

"And I think that's a great asset to have, when you have a guy who is one of the best who has ever played this game more than willing to give as much of his time as he can. We're lucky to have him around here as much as we can, not only for myself, but the guys in the clubhouse too."

Perhaps lost in Martinez's sheer talent as a pitcher was the way he studied the game. That could be seen in his interaction with Porcello on Friday.

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"Sometimes you go out there and unconsciously move your feet," said Martinez. "I'm very picky with little details. Details that could throw you off a little bit. It could be the margin for break, or height, or movement. I saw him moving a little bit on the rubber so I was quick to approach that, because I know him well enough where I know he's not moving that much. And he was moving from one place to the other, so I was quick to approach that before he goes into a habit of something."

Manager Alex Cora, who missed being Martinez's teammate by one season with the Red Sox, is happy to be united with him now.

"He's a Hall of Famer. He's involved," said Cora. "He has a will to connect with players first, and [then] connect with the coaching staff. He's very comfortable. I'm learning from him. Pedro connecting with Dana, and for us to understand he's not stepping on anybody's toes is great. It's a great situation not only for us as a staff, but also the players."

Hanley option out of Cora's mind

Red Sox slugger faces an interesting contract situation this season. If he gets 497 plate appearances and passes his physical after the season, his $22 million option would vest for 2019.

Does that make a difference in how Cora utilizes the designated hitter/first baseman?

"Not for me," Cora said.

Like he stated at the Winter Weekend, the guy that hits will play.

"We expect Hanley to hit," he said. "He's a guy that, honestly, I saw what happened in October with the quality of at-bats, him staying through the field, still driving the ball to left-center. That's when he's at his best. If he hits he's going to play."

Resting the regulars

Cora expects to have a deep bench for the upcoming season. And he will use that as an opportunity to keep his regulars fresh.

"If they start buying into it, they will see the benefits of having off-days," said Cora. "You start looking at our schedule, and I did, there are certain trips here that they're tough. The three-city trips, one where we start on the West Coast then go to Minnesota and end up in Toronto, whatever it is. Those are tough. There are fewer at-bats you're going to have compared to previous years, but in the end they're going to benefit from the plan."