Pedro having a blast in new role with Red Sox
Former star sharing his vast knowledge of pitching as special assistant to GM
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Perhaps the magnitude of returning to the Red Sox didn't fully dawn on Pedro Martinez until Monday, when he put Boston's uniform pants back on for the first time since his victory in Game 3 of the 2004 World Series.
Nearly nine years later, Martinez has entered a different chapter of his life, one in which he still expresses the same loyalty to Boston and the Red Sox, but only in a different capacity.
Meet Pedro the pitching mentor. You can find him under the title of special assistant to the general manager.
Make no mistake, though. This is no desk job. Martinez wants to be out in the field, breaking a sweat with those he is trying to help.
Last week, Martinez was around for a day, but it was before camp had officially opened, and he was wearing workout shorts.
"You know what, it's weird, but it feels like the first day to me," Martinez said. "I get so excited just to be part of this team and be part of the tradition that we have here. To me, it was just like the first day. I was actually a little bit funny about putting a pair of [Red Sox] pants on again. Shorts are different. And regular pants like a player. Same size, same everything, even though I'm a little heavier."
Martinez doesn't regret the four-year stint he spent with the Mets after he left Boston or the half-year with the Phillies, when he finished his pitching career by going up against the Yankees in a losing effort in the 2009 World Series.
But his heart never left Boston, and it's hard to imagine he will ever work for another team again.
When Martinez sees Luis Tiant or Jim Rice roaming the grounds at Spring Training decades after they last played in Boston, he envisions that the same thing will happen for him.
"Probably," said Martinez. "I'll probably be an old goat running around [Spring Training]. I probably won't have the goatee, but I'll be around hopefully like Jim Rice and Tiant, without the goatee. [Like] Johnny Pesky. I remember him hitting me some fungos in my first year here. Then I saw him in his last days. I was really proud to have the opportunity to see Johnny Pesky. I'm hoping to become someone like that."
During Monday's workout, Martinez worked in the background, talking with reliever Daniel Bard and monitoring starter Clay Buchholz during a bullpen session.
"He brings some energy," said Buchholz. "He's a good guy to have around. He's obviously been through it a lot. He's been through the best times in Boston and knows what it takes to play here and he's definitely a good resource to have."
Even though Martinez wasn't on the team's payroll last season, Buchholz used him as an invaluable resource.
|I hope to add some knowledge -- any help I can to the staff in every aspect. Be it mechanically, it could be in the field, it could be off the field, could be mentally, which I know a lot about. ... I can relate to a lot of them and actually get them going, hopefully. They can come in and ask questions and I'd be more than willing to answer."|
|-- Pedro Martinez|
"He was there [in Boston] probably roughly halfway through that rough start I had," Buchholz said. "He gave me some structure, saying he was sort of similar in his first month of the season. If he was going to struggle, that was the time that he'd struggle."
Sometimes a legendary athlete can have a hard time teaching the craft because of the talent discrepancy with nearly everyone else. Martinez seems to have a way of bridging that gap, perhaps because his off-the-mound personality has always been one that puts people at ease.
"It's awesome," Buchholz said. "Like I said, he's a character. He has a really awesome personality. He's easy to talk to. He can make you feel good about things, even if you weren't up to par. He picks things out of [bullpen sessions] that sort of reassures you that you're headed in the right direction."
There are a couple of pitchers Martinez has been asked to pay special attention to during camp.
"Two guys that he's focusing on are Rubby [De La Rosa] and Felix [Doubront]," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "More just sharing his experiences as far the mindset of a starting pitcher to not only just go through Spring Training, but how to manage a full season."
Martinez will have no problem lightening the mood on the days he is around.
"There wasn't anybody more serious on the day I pitched. But if I wasn't pitching, I was so crazy fun, and those guys are going to get to know that," Martinez said. "Even though I'm not playing, I'm going to keep it loose. I'm going to be loud. And you can do those things, but you have to understand that the time to work is the time to work and make a difference between work and loose time. When you have to express something, do it the right way."
Though Martinez was one of those pantheon athletes in the history of Boston sports, he doesn't feel much of an ego these days.
"This may sound weird, but I never considered myself a great player," Martinez said. "I made myself, along with my teammates, a better player than I was. I never thought I was a superstar. I worked like I was a hungry man going for his first game in the big leagues.
"I will say I had to learn a lot of little pieces together to become the person I was -- the pitcher I was. I have a lot of me with [Greg] Maddux, with [Andy] Pettitte, with [Roger] Clemens, Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver. Bret Saberhagen -- believe it or not -- was someone I really analyzed a lot, Tom Glavine.
"I had a lot of little things I learned from everybody. I tried to pack them all together and use them, and that's how I became who I was in baseball, but I never considered myself a superstar or a superhuman talent. I thought there was a lot of work for me to do each day to be consistent and have success."
But fans who were at the Red Sox's Spring Training complex on Monday clearly remembered Martinez as a superstar. He elicited more roars than anyone during the workout. The love from the fans is something Martinez will never tire of.
"Since I left Boston, everything was a parade, and every time I came back, it was a parade," Martinez said. "People got used to keeping the same attitude. I think I'm the same way. I was really happy that they could [still] feel, on a baseball field, what they felt for me in the field when I was playing."
Though the applause is a nice fringe benefit of his new job, the reason Martinez is back is because he's convinced he can help.
As veteran Martinez observers know, his lethal arsenal of pitches was matched only by his intellect for the game.
"I hope to add some knowledge -- any help I can to the staff in every aspect," Martinez said. "Be it mechanically, it could be in the field, it could be off the field, could be mentally, which I know a lot about. I know about going through struggles and the stuff we go through during the middle of the season, especially after the first half. I can relate to a lot of them and actually get them going, hopefully. They can come in and ask questions and I'd be more than willing to answer."
Eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2015, Martinez no longer has the itch to blow a fastball by somebody. There will be no comeback, he promises.
"Not at all -- not to play," Martinez said. "Coming back to see the Sox in first place maybe. I just don't think so. I did what I was supposed to do -- that's it."