The Tireless Victor Martinez Gets a Day Off
|09.27.09 at 2:59 pm ET|
NEW YORK — Victor Martinez took no time to make himself a mainstay of the Red Sox lineup. Since joining his new club in Baltimore on Aug. 1, Martinez has played in 50 of the Sox’ 52 games, tied with Dustin Pedroia for second most on the team prior to Sunday. Of those contests, Martinez has spent more than half (28) while squatting and handling the game’s most demanding position.
Indeed, among players who have spent at least half their games behind the plate this year, Martinez has played far and away the most in the majors (148). While some of his workload has been at the less taxing position of first base, his constancy in the lineup is nonetheless remarkable.
Martinez has always been an everyday player in every sense of the word, having averaged 149 games a season with the Indians from 2005-07. He is currently in sniffing distance of his career high of 153 games, set in 2006. With all of that being the case, the Sox opted to give Martinez a rare breather on Sunday, leaving him out of the starting lineup after 10 straight days in it. When Sox manager Terry Francona broached the subject with his catcher, it immediately became clear that the idea was worth pursuing.
“When he accepts a day off, I know he needs it, because he’s fought me the last couple of times,” said Francona. “Last night, he didn’t fight me so I think it’s probably a good idea.”
Of course, Martinez’ break will be short-lived. On Monday, Francona plans to have him back behind the dish to catch Josh Beckett for the right-hander’s second straight start. The No. 3 hitter in the Red Sox lineup has become too important to his club’s success to remain sidelined for too long. That said, the Sox are trying to balance the catcher’s impact on the lineup with a desire to keep him rested and productive. Indeed, it is in many ways remarkable that Martinez has been so strong down the stretch despite his workload.
Martinez is currently amidst a career-long 25-game hitting streak. He is hitting .358 with a .425 OBP and .909 OPS during that run. Ordinarily, the fatigue of catching can manifest itself with more swings and misses at this stage of the season, but during his current hitting streak, Martinez has the same number of walks and strikeouts (10 of each) in 106 plate appearances.
Across the board, in fact, Martinez’ numbers in September rank second for any month of this season, with his average (.373), OBP (.441), slugging (.506) and OPS (.947) all his best since April. As it turns out, the development is par for the course for Martinez, who is a career .318 hitter with a .398 OBP and .864 OPS in September.
That suggests a hitter who manages to figure out a way to adapt his game when the grind of a season is at its weightiest.
“He’s a good hitter. I thought I saw a couple of days where he was wearing down. But he’d either manage late in the game, because he’s a smart, good hitter, to put a good swing on the ball and get a hit — a big hit,” said Francona. “Some guys just have an ability to get the bat head to the ball, even when they know they’re getting a little long or a little tired. He has that ability. He’s done a good job, because he expends a lot of energy during the game. He’s a pretty vocal, pretty emotional player.”
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