BOSTON — Pedro Martinez and Jason Varitek represent symbiosis at its finest.
Martinez and Varitek fed off each other for seven seasons with the Red Sox. They grew together, they learned together and they succeeded together. As Martinez’s No. 45 goes up on the right field facade Tuesday at Fenway Park, Varitek can’t help but appreciate their relationship.
“His ability made him different,” Varitek said Tuesday at Fenway before Martinez’s number retirement ceremony. “His ability to read hitters from the mound in pressure situations, read swings, and then to make those adjustments, along with his competitiveness, made him elite. He had the repertoire.
“Not everyone can see the game as slowly and with the ability from the mound that he could — I do truly believe that. And that’s where I would learn from him. You trust what you see. You trust what goes on during the game. And you can make adjustments from there. You’ve got one mind and then two minds, and then you’ve got two minds working together.”
Those minds combined for one of the most dominant stretches of starting pitching in Major League Baseball history. Martinez went 117-37 with a 2.52 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP in 203 career games (201 appearances) for Boston. The right-hander won two of his three Cy Young awards with the Red Sox — he also should have been the 1999 American League MVP — and helped Boston end its 86-year World Series drought in 2004.
Varitek caught Martinez more than any catcher in the Hall of Fame pitcher’s 18-year career. The tandem worked together 168 times in the regular season, totaling 1,133 1/3 innings. Few knew Martinez, both on the field and in the clubhouse, quite like Varitek, which is why he was a fitting choice to narrate a video presented before Martinez’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony Sunday in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“I think his ‘clubhouse guy’ came when he took the mound,” Varitek said Tuesday of what kind of player Martinez was behind closed doors. “He was a different, fun, loud, very loud. I said the other day, ‘He can be annoying.’ But annoying in sometimes a funny way.
“He always had his teammates backs when it came the right time, and I think that speaks more to him than anything. If something messed up happened to somebody, we had each other’s backs, and he did it in his small frame. It was pretty good to be a part of.”
Martinez and Varitek both left their marks on the Red Sox organization. They did so in entirely different ways, but there also was a distinct harmony whenever their paths crossed.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@Tim_Goergen