SARASOTA, Fla. — The Red Sox offense perked up when Victor Martinez arrived at the trade deadline last year. After seeing his power display on Wednesday, the thought of having him for a full season became even more appealing.
Martinez slugged a grand slam and a two-run homer in a 14-6 rout of the Baltimore Orioles, narrowly missing a third home run on a drive caught at the wall in center.
For good measure, he also singled and made a sliding catch of a foul pop to end the fifth inning.
"You have one of those days once in awhile," Martinez said.
Such humility will be harder to come by with more efforts like this one. It might go out the window entirely if Martinez can have the impact he had late last summer in Boston.
With David Ortiz slumping in the third spot in Boston's lineup and Jason Varitek struggling to stay above the Mendoza Line as the team's primary backstop, Martinez was able to plug two holes when he arrived in a trade with Cleveland and was planted between Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis.
Between the start of the season and the end of July, the Sox averaged 5.16 runs per game. With the former Indians catcher batting .336 over the final two months of the year, that number spiked to 5.61.
Essentially, Martinez gave manager Terry Francona a sure thing where there was once uncertainty.
"We want him just to sit right in that three hole and do his thing," Francona said Wednesday. "He's a heck of a hitter, both sides of the plate."
The remaining question might be Martinez's work on the defensive side. He contributed to the team-wide issue of limiting would-be base-stealers last year but has never had the reputation as a defensive stalwart. But after those two months in 2009 and a full spring working with the staff, he is much more confident in his ability to manage the game.
On Wednesday, he teamed with Jon Lester, who threw seven dominant innings against the Orioles. Lester allowed a run on just three hits in seven innings, the first and possibly only start for a Red Sox pitcher this spring to last that long.
The battery appeared a step ahead of Baltimore hitters all day. Martinez said that comes from the comfort in now knowing all that Lester has to offer.
"It's special how hard he throws," Martinez said of the southpaw. "I used to face him and go out there and just hope he makes a mistake and make sure you don't miss it because you're not going to get another one. That's what makes him so tough. He can throw to both sides of the plate. He has that good changeup and then he can pitch 94-95 and then he can throw that cutter."
After a long pause, Martinez continued.
"And don't forget about the curveball," he said.
It was actually a curveball that Martinez crushed for his two-run homer in the third. His grand slam came on the first pitch he saw in the fourth. And he sent Baltimore center fielder Felix Pie to the wall in the fifth.
Martinez, who is entering that final year of his contract, indicated his swing is coming together at the right time.
"Obviously, toward the end [of spring training], that's how you want to feel going into the season," he said.
The Red Sox are hoping that feeling lasts all season. Two months wasn't enough.