Alex Cora is willing to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to J.D. Martinez.
The Red Sox manager joked over the offseason that he’d bet a dollar on Martinez bouncing back in 2021 after a rough 2020. On Friday, one day after Boston’s pitchers and catchers had their first spring training workout at JetBlue Park, Cora raised the stakes.
“J.D. got mad at me because I only bet one dollar a few months ago that he’s going to have a better season,” Cora quipped during a video conference with reporters. “I’ll raise the bet to five dollars that he’ll have a better season.”
OK, so no one’s going to go looking for Cora if he doesn’t pay up. And vice versa. But it’s obvious the skipper has high expectations for Martinez this season as the Red Sox look to rebound from a last-place finish.
Martinez, one of Major League Baseball’s most feared sluggers during his first two years in Boston, hit just .213 with seven home runs, 27 RBIs and a .680 OPS in 237 plate appearances last season.
While it’s natural to wonder about the designated hitter’s ceiling moving forward at age 33, it’s also entirely possible last season’s drop-off was a fluke, brought on by both the unique nature of the 60-game schedule and MLB’s new rules prohibiting the use of in-game video.
Things aren’t exactly back to normal in 2021, with the COVID-19 pandemic still very much a problem. However, MLB reportedly has tweaked its rules regarding in-game video use to allow players access to iPads in the dugout. So, that could benefit Martinez, who earned back-to-back All-Star selections with the Red Sox in 2018 and 2019.
Boston’s offense remained productive in 2020 despite Martinez’s struggles, as it ultimately was the team’s work from the mound that killed its chances of contending in the American League East.
That said, a healthy and productive Martinez would go a long way toward lengthening the lineup and, in turn, making the Red Sox more dangerous in 2021.
Cora might want to circle back and raise the “bet” one more time before Opening Day.