September 23, 2018
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Martinez makes Red Sox debut, opening day only three weeks away

By MAUREEN MULLEN, The Associated Press
Updated:

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Star slugger J.D. Martinez went 0 for 2 in his spring training debut for the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday, just three weeks before opening day.

“He’s not behind at all,” new manager Alex Cora said.

On Thursday, Martinez doubled, singled twice in drove in a run in Boston’s 6-6 tie against Tampa Bay.

Although Martinez will be Boston’s primary designated hitter, he also is expected to get time in the field. With the Red Sox playing split-squad games, he played left field and batted cleanup.

Facing Twins right-hander Jake Odorizzi, Martinez twice flied out.

“Seeing the ball, just going up there and trying to slow the ball down as best as I can, and swing at strikes,” Martinez said. “Really, that’s all I was really worried about, just get a pitch over the plate and put a good swing on it.”

“It felt good. It was fun. You don’t realize how much you miss something until you can’t do it and you haven’t been able to do it for a while. So it was fun to get out there,” he said.

The AL East champion Red Sox announced Feb. 26 they had signed Martinez to a $110 million, five-year deal. The 30-year-old hit a combined .303 with 45 home runs and 104 RBIs last season in just 119 games with Detroit and Arizona.

In his first game for Boston, Martinez hit behind Hanley Ramirez, who was serving as the DH. It’s a combination the Red Sox hope will add punch to a lineup that finished last in the American League with 168 home runs last season.

“He was designated for assignment four years ago (by the Astros, at the end of spring training in 2014), and now he’s going to hit in the middle of the lineup for the Boston Red Sox, with a team that has a chance to win the World Series,” Cora said.

“There’s no coincidence that he’s been successful the last few years because he found it and he keeps working on it,” he said.

Martinez said he typically likes to get 60 to 80 at-bats in the spring, including Grapefruit League and minor league games, to prepare for the season.

Despite the delayed start to Martinez’s spring, Cora said he believes the big hitter is right on pace for the season opener March 29 at Tampa Bay.

“It’s a spring training game, so he needs his reps,” Cora said. “But to see him out there, actually to see him around, spend time with him, it’s a lot different than the last week.”

“We’ve been on the road so much since he signed we haven’t been able to connect. So to have him in the lineup, have him in the dugout, that’s good, not only for me but for everybody,” he said.

Martinez knows there are big hopes for him, but he’s not letting that affect him.

“I feel like you guys have the expectations, the fans and the media,” he said. “Really, I’m just going to go out there and play my game and do what I’ve been doing for the last four or five years.”

“As far as the pressure and stuff goes, I’m just going to try to go out there and play my game. Obviously, ignore it, stuff like that. Obviously, playing in Boston, it’s a big market, so there’s going to be a lot more, but I think it’ll be a good test of handling it,” he said.

Nunez likely to start Red Sox opener at 2B as Pedroia heals

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Eduardo Nunez is likely to be the opening-day second baseman for the Boston Red Sox while Dustin Pedroia recovers from offseason knee surgery.

“He’s a guy that he can play a lot of positions, but we know the situation we’re in and we know where Dustin is,” manager Alex Cora said Thursday. “It looks that way.”

Nunez would be the first player other than Pedroia to start a Boston opener at second since Mark Loretta in 2006. Pedroia made his major league debut Aug. 22 that year.

Pedroia had left knee surgery on Oct. 25 in which Dr. Riley Williams III restored cartilage, and the Red Sox said then he was expected to miss more than the first month of the season.

The 30-year-old Nunez was an All-Star with San Francisco in 2016 and was acquired by the Red Sox last July 26 for a pair of minor leaguers. He hit .321 with eight homers, 23 runs and 27 RBIs in 38 games for Boston but was slowed when he bruised his right knee on Sept. 9.

His only regular season appearance after that was on Sept. 25, when he aggravated the injury and was removed in the third inning. He started the Division Series opener against Houston but re-injured the knee while running out a ground ball. He also was on the disabled list from June 20-July 13 with a right hamstring strain.

A veteran of eight major league seasons that also included time with the New York Yankees and Minnesota, Nunez became a free agent after the World Series and stayed with the Red Sox for a deal that pays him $4 million this year and includes a $4 million player option in 2019.

Nunez made his exhibition season debut Thursday, going 0 for 2 against Tampa Bay and playing four innings of defense. He is expected to play second base Saturday against the Twins and be the designated hitter Sunday against Baltimore.

“He’s a full go now,” Cora said.


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