J.D. Martinez is in a bit of a rut, but his manager isn’t very concerned.
Martinez went hitless in five of his last eight games. This includes Friday night when the Boston Red Sox designated hitter went 0-for-4 with a strikeout in Boston’s 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. It’s also been seven games since Martinez last reached base via walk.
Speaking with the media after the Sox-Rays series opener, manager Alex Cora diagnosed the root of Martinez’s latest skid.
“…J.D. went through a stretch like a month ago. Actually, I think we were here, if I’m not mistaken, that he wasn’t walking,” Cora told reporters. “He was swinging at pitches on the edges of the strike zone. It doesn’t matter if you’re J.D. Martinez or Alex Cora, a .230 hitter. If you swing at the edge of the strike zone, it’s hard to hit the ball hard. It’s just getting back to what he does. He needs to understand he’s still J.D. Martinez. He’s a great hitter and teams are going to avoid the strike zone with him. They are going to pitch to the edges. When he’s in that swing mode, aggressive mode, then he expands and there’s no hard contract.”
Few players in baseball are as committed to their craft as Martinez is with hitting. In turn, it feels safe to assume his current slide will not be a prolonged issue.
Here are some other notes from Friday’s Red Sox-Rays game:
— Rafael Devers sat out his second consecutive game, but the third baseman’s absence from Boston’s lineup soon will come to an end.
“He’s good, he’s good. He’ll play tomorrow,” Cora said of Devers. “He had treatment. Talking to the medical staff, with the turf and obviously travelling late last night, it was good to keep him out of the ballgame. Actually, he was going to pinch-hit for Jonathan (Araúz) with more traffic in the last at-bat against a righty. So, he’s a go tomorrow.”
— Martín Pérez was roughed up, allowing six earned runs on seven hits over four innings. His rough outing came 24 hours after Eduardo Rodríguez allowed the same amount of hits and runs over 3 1/3 innings in a blowout loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Still, Pérez has confidence in Boston’s starting rotation, which was not addressed by the MLB trade deadline.
“We’re fine. I think we’re good,” Pérez told reporters. “Every time when you ask me a question about how we’re gonna be, I always tell you guys that we’re gonna be fine. We’ve been fighting all season long. We’re in the same spot, first place. A couple bad games, that’s a part of the game. That’s gonna happen in the season. We’ll be fine and I think everybody’s doing their job to go out there and compete and do our job every day.
“We just have to compete with what we got here. I think we got amazing talent. We can do a lot of things with all of the guys we have here. You know, stay strong. Two bad games and I know they’ve been hitting us a lot. That happens in the game. That’s baseball, nothing we can do. We just got to go out there and control what we can control. One thing we can do better is just throw more strikes and throw more quality pitches. I think we’re gonna do it and we’ll be fine. We’ll be OK.”
— The Red Sox made two trades Friday, acquiring left-hander Austin Davis and right-hander Hansel Robles from the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Minnesota Twins, respectively. Cora said he expects both relief pitchers to join the club on the active roster Saturday.
— Xander Bogaerts hasn’t looked like his All-Star self as of late, but as Cora made clear after the game, it’s not injury-related.
“With Xander, I think it’s just timing,” Cora said. “Kind of struggling with the pitch up in the zone, which he doesn’t do. So hopefully he’ll keep working. He’s OK with the wrist, obviously. That’s why we let him play. But I think timing-wise, that pitch up in the zone that he usually gets to it, he hasn’t been able to get the last few days.”
— The seventh inning belonged to Hirokazu Sawamura, who made his first appearance since returning from injury. The right-hander worked around two walks and a hit to log a scoreless frame.