Notes: J.D. to bat second; Rodriguez update

July 22nd, 2020

BOSTON -- J.D. Martinez, whose agent Scott Boras calls the "King Kong of Slug," batted either third or fourth in every game he started for the Red Sox the past two seasons.

But that’s about to change, as it appears Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke is going to follow a model other teams have used in recent years and turn his most dangerous all-around hitter into the No. 2 batter in the order.

The Angels deploy Mike Trout in that spot, and hulking slugger Aaron Judge bats second for the Yankees. Jose Altuve, Pete Alonso, Anthony Rizzo, Christian Yelich and Max Muncy are other No. 2 hitters with big pop.

“This is something that I don't know for a fact, but this is something that the analytics people tell me,” said Roenicke. “For whatever reason, the second spot in your lineup is the most important spot in your lineup.

“When I was in Anaheim, we were trying to figure out where to put Mike Trout. Mike Trout hits second now. They think it's that important for that spot. My question was, ‘OK, does he drive in as many runs in that spot?' You'd think he wouldn't, but according to them, yes, he does have the same opportunities in the second spot as he does in the third spot. And he's going to get more plate appearances by being in the second.”

Rafael Devers was Boston’s No. 2 hitter last year, and did a tremendous job. But with fellow lefty Andrew Benintendi now batting leadoff, Roenicke decided he’d rather have a righty hitting second and Martinez could be the perfect candidate.

Devers will bat third, with Xander Bogaerts in the cleanup hole.

Is there any concern that Martinez -- not exactly the fleetest of foot -- will clog up the basepaths hitting second?

“Talked a little bit about that to [bench coach] Jerry Narron last night on the bench when we were watching him out there,” said Roenicke. “J.D. is a pretty good baserunner. He's not as slow as everyone thinks he is. This guy played right field for a lot of years, and you can't play right field if you're real slow. I know he's big. I know people think because he DHs he doesn't run well, but he actually runs OK.”

Roenicke gave it a test run on Tuesday night, and Martinez responded by scoring from second on a single and clocking a two-run homer to the opposite field.

“I know last night it looked really good, and I'm hoping it will continue to look really good, and we'll stick with it,” Roenicke said.

E-Rod update
Lefty ace Eduardo Rodriguez has been back with the team for about five days, but the Red Sox are still trying to gauge where he’s at in his comeback from COVID-19.

Lefty relievers Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez also reported to camp recently after recovering from the virus.

“I told you building up with him and where he is physically with our training staff, there are some hurdles he’s going to have to get over and we’ll see where he’s at,” said Roenicke. “We’ll continue to watch him with the other two guys. There’s fatigue in this and we can’t push those guys along and we know it takes time.”

All three pitchers will open the season on the injured list.

Broadcasting from the studio
NESN’s popular broadcasting trio of Dave O’Brien, Jerry Remy and Dennis Eckersley will call home and away games from the studio in Watertown, Mass., this season.

The team gave it a trial run in Tuesday’s exhibition game against the Blue Jays and sounded like their usual selves, with banter flowing freely.

“For me, there was a comfort level,” Eckersley said. “As soon as Dave started the game off last night, his voice, it’s like, I just felt like we were there. And then Jerry welcoming everybody like he does every night. I felt the comfort level, but at the same time, I know, it was weird, we were sitting in the studio. I feel really comfortable with these guys. We haven’t been doing it all that long, but I feel like we’ve been doing it forever.”

One of the reasons the adjustment should be seamless is because of the quality of monitors and camera angles NESN has set up in their studio.

“As far as being in the studio, I felt very comfortable there. I had all I needed to work with,” Remy said. “I had the high home camera that allowed me to see the whole field. Things that I look for off the baseball, defense, positioning, I was able to see. And then we had our usual monitors that we always have, so I felt very comfortable doing it.”

The huge monitor in the studio that showcases the view from center field is the one Eckersley will lock in on. He’d be doing that even if he was in the booth, rather than looking down at the field.

“I’m so locked in on the pitch-to-pitch with the center-field camera, watching the pitchers, I take for granted when I used to glance up and look at something,” Eckersley said. “I don’t even know if I’m missing that or not. We’ve only done one game. You’re waiting for that replay. As we go along, I think we’ve got it all covered.”

The broadcasters also appreciated the piped-in crowd noise.

“I can’t imagine calling a game in dead silence,” O’Brien said. “It would be so foreign. My family watched the game last night and they thought it sounded like a normal game, if you have your back to the screen or you’re doing some work on the computer or you’re cooking dinner, it sounds like 35,000 people at Fenway Park, which I thought was great, because that’s exactly what we’re looking for. I couldn’t envision doing a game without people there or feeling like they’re there. That’s the sound of baseball. It affects our rhythm between the three of us.”