J.D. the tutor, the slugger, the ... pitcher?

April 5th, 2021

BOSTON -- After an 0-for-10 start to the season that included five strikeouts, Red Sox rookie first baseman received some advice from teammate that might help jump-start him by the time he is back in the lineup on Tuesday.

Manager Alex Cora gave Dalbec a rest for Monday night’s game against the Rays at Fenway Park, which will allow the righty slugger to spend more of his energy working on some of the tips Martinez gave him.

“We talked [Sunday] about his swing and his hips, and I showed it to him on the video, and it’s such a big difference,” Martinez said. “He’s going to be working on this stuff today, what we talked about. All I can do is show him what I see, and hopefully it resonates with him."

With the COVID-19 protocols loosening a little from last season, Martinez is able to get back to doing one of the things he does best -- giving technical advice to teammates.

“[Dalbec] has a good idea of what he wants to do now," Martinez said. "He impressed me a lot during Spring Training. The strides he made from last year to this year, just in spring when I saw him, I was like, ‘This kid can hit. This is real.' To me, he has the makeup that he can be an impact player in this league.”

Dalbec, ranked No. 3 among Red Sox prospects by MLB Pipeline, led the Grapefruit League with seven homers, and Martinez is sure that was no fluke.

“Bobby is a great guy, a great kid,” Martinez said. “He’s hungry, wants to learn; for the last two years [he] has been talking, trying to pick my brain about certain situations. He’s a big kid, he’s a nice kid, he’s hungry, he’s composed.”

If Martinez wants to be a hitting coach when he is done playing, he seems to have a knack for it. With basically every Red Sox hitter aside from Martinez struggling the first three games of the season, this could be a good time for him to help get people on track.

Some of what he does is mechanical. But there is also an element of psychology.

“You know, there are certain guys I feel comfortable going up to and talking [to],” Martinez said. “Other ones, it’s only three games, guys. Really, three games. It means nothing. You go out there, there’s a lot of games to go -- 159 more. The important thing is not hitting the panic button on these guys, not being like, ‘Oh my gosh, I haven’t hit in the first three days.’ It’s, ‘Relax. It’s fine. There’s still a long way to go.’ I talked to a couple guys yesterday about their swing, some things I saw. So, we’ll see.”

J.D. getting groove back
Aside from counseling others, Martinez looks poised to bounce back from a rough 2020 season, when he hit .213 and had a .680 OPS in 54 games.

For Martinez, being able to study video of his at-bats again during games -- something players couldn’t do last year -- is a key.

“It’s definitely cooled my anxiety, I would say, of being able to try something out, going in there and seeing [on video], ‘OK, yeah, that looks better,’ being able to make those adjustments from at-bat to at-bat,” Martinez said.

In the opening three-game series against Baltimore, Martinez went 6-for-12 with a rocket homer to center, Boston’s only long ball in the sweep at the hands of the Orioles.

“I feel a lot better,” Martinez said. “I feel a lot more confident with myself and the work that I put in with the swing compared to last year. Last year was one of those things where it kind of sprung up. Are we going to play or are we not? Oh, you have to get ready, you have three weeks. Where this year, you're kind of mentally more prepared I would say.”

Marveling at Ohtani
Count Martinez among those amazed by what Shohei Ohtani did from a hitting and pitching standpoint on Sunday night against the White Sox. After throwing 101 mph from the mound in the first, Ohtani hit a prodigious homer in the bottom of the inning that left his bat at 115.2 mph and went a projected distance of 451 feet.

“That’s like Stanton/Judge-type power right there. I don’t know who hits the ball that hard,” Martinez said. “And then to throw the ball 100 mph. That’s crazy. And his splitter was the most impressive thing. It was 93 mph and moving like a knuckleball. It’s impressive. That kid has a lot of talent.”

Martinez’s visions of being a two-way player ended before getting off the ground.

“Yeah, when I was like 13,” Martinez said. “Actually, I pitched in high school one time. We were playing like the worst team in our division and our coach told me straight up, ‘J.D., you should throw a perfect game. You should throw a no-hitter against these guys. I’m not even joking. This team is awful. There’s no way they beat you.’ I gave up four runs in the second inning and I never pitched again. He’s like, ‘All right, get back to the outfield.’”