FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Victor Martinez was thrown into the fire of an American League East pennant race after joining the Red Sox as a trading deadline acquisition last season.
The catcher didn’t have time to learn and adapt to the nuances of all the pitchers on his staff.
It’s different now.
“It was something that I was really looking forward to coming into spring training, just having a chance to work with every single guy,” Martinez said. “It makes me feel a lot more comfortable.”
He acknowledged that it was difficult when he first joined Boston. Leaving the Indians, the organization that signed him as a 17-year-old out of Venezuela, adapting to a new team, a new city, and a new pitching staff were major adjustments.
Martinez, who turned 31 in December, now has the opportunity to learn about the subtleties and idiosyncrasies of his staff without the heat of a pennant race bearing down on him.
“We got six weeks before we get the season started,” he said. “I’m just trying to find out, get on the same page with them, just kind of learn what they like to do in certain situations.
“That little stuff that is going to make my job a little easier to call a game for them.”
The pitchers must also become comfortable with him.
Earlier this week, Martinez caught Josh Beckett against the Cardinals. On a scale of 1 to 10, Beckett said his comfort level with Martinez behind the plate is about a 7.
“I think we’re comfortable with each other,” Beckett said. “I think it’s a feel. He gets a feel for what I like to throw in certain counts and that creates rhythm. For us right now, it’s just about getting on the same page every pitch.”
Beckett pointed out that Martinez caught Cy Young winners Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia in Cleveland.
“Victor’s a very, very smart guy,” Beckett said. “I don’t think it will take him long. He knows how to call a game. If there is some sort of issue between what he’s calling and how well I’m throwing it, it’s probably me, not him.”
Martinez has supplanted incumbent Jason Varitek, the team captain who is entering his 14th season with the Red Sox on a one-year contract. Martinez said the transition would have been much more difficult it hadn’t been for Varitek.
“Man, he did it,” Martinez said. “He pretty much did it all for me last year. He was the one that got me ready for the pitching staff. He was the one that really helped me out. He told me what pitches, if a pitcher is in a hole or in trouble, call this pitch, it’ll relax him. And you know what, if it wasn’t for Jason, things would be a lot tougher last year.”
It was a situation that could have been very awkward.
“Well, that shows you what kind of player he is,” Martinez said. “He’s all about what’s going to win a game, and that shows you why he has that ‘C’ on his chest.”
Last season, Martinez also saw time at first base and as the designated hitter. He has been taking pregame groundballs at third base and shortstop this spring, but don’t expect him to add those positions to his resume.
“No chance, no chance,” he said. “That’s just for fun. You got to have fun in this game. Sometime you take it too seriously, and you’re never going to do nothing. So I’m just jumping around having fun and enjoying the game.”