FORT MYERS, Fla. -- J.D. Martinez's big bat was on display for the Red Sox for the first time in Grapefruit League action on Saturday afternoon against the Orioles, and it was a welcome sight.
Last year at this time, the Red Sox were just getting to know Martinez, who signed with Spring Training already in progress.
Now, the Sox know that they not only have one of the most gifted right-handed hitters in the game, but also one of the most dedicated.
“As far as the hitter, he's the closest thing to Manny Ramirez,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “I said it last year, [and] I'll say it again, he's the closest thing to Manny.”
Martinez, who went 0-for-2 in Boston’s 9-1 loss to Baltimore, is a modern-day Ramirez without all of the Manny-being-Manny drama.
“His approach, the way he drives the ball to right-center, that's what Manny did,” said Cora. “Make a mistake with the offspeed stuff then the wall was his friend. Manny will tell you that. You see J.D. with his approach in batting practice and all that, he doesn't pull the ball. When he pulls one over the wall, he gets upset, he wants to stay through it and get the barrel to the ball and then hit it in the air to right center.”
Plan forming for Pedroia
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia will have a rigorous workout on Monday, and if that goes well, he could be cleared to play in his first game of the spring at some point next weekend.
Pedroia played just three games in 2018 after undergoing major surgery on his left knee. Though Cora had originally mentioned the possibility of Pedroia playing by midweek, he said there have been no setbacks.
“All the checkpoints with workload, and Spring Training gives you a lot of information,” said Cora. “We’re tracking that and comparing with other players, and there’s a lot of factors that go in. We feel like hopefully if everything goes well on Monday, then we’ll set a date towards the end of the week.”
What will Monday’s workout entail?
“Everything,” Cora said. “Ground balls, hit, run, everything.”
Things are going much slower for knuckleballer Steven Wright, who had the same knee procedure as Pedroia, back in May 2017. The knuckleballer is only playing catch off flat ground to this point, and he should get out to 90 feet on Sunday.
Johnson out sick; Pearce is better
Why did Brian Johnson miss his scheduled start on Saturday against the Orioles? He got sick.
“Hopefully there’s nothing going on in the clubhouse. But, yeah, throwing up, stomach bug, different than [Steve] Pearce,” said Cora.
Pearce, last year’s World Series MVP, was out a couple of days this week dealing with his illness. The hope is that he will play his first game of Spring Training on Wednesday.
Starters ramping up behind the scenes
Cora said that all four pitchers threw two simulated innings on Friday.
“They faced the Rays, the Orioles and the Dodgers,” quipped Cora. “They did well, the four of them. So they're right on track."
The Red Sox will send their top-rated pitching prospect to the mound on Sunday when lefty Darwinzon Hernandez faces the split-squad Twins at JetBlue park. First baseman Mitch Moreland is expected to play for the first time this spring, and left fielder Andrew Benintendi is among the regulars who will be in the starting lineup. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET, and fans can watch the action live on MLB.TV.