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Pedro Martinez unplugged: ‘I’m hoping to become’ Johnny Pesky
Posted By Mike Petraglia On February 18, 2013 @ 6:22 pm In General,Spring Training | 22 Comments
FORT MYERS, Fla. — In an epic session with reporters Monday afternoon that lasted 23 minutes, 14 seconds, Pedro Martinez provided a glimpse into his personality that defined a legendary career and offered rare insight as to why one of the greatest Red Sox pitchers of all time decided the time was right to rejoin the Red Sox as a pitching consultant.
Toward the end of the session, he admitted that his goal, his main objective with the organization is not to become a pitching coach or manager but rather a character and ambassador like the late, great Johnny Pesky.
“Johnny Pesky, I remember Johnny Pesky hitting fungos in my first year here,” Martinez said of his first year in 1998. “I saw him in his last days. I’m extremely proud to have seen Johnny Pesky. I’m hoping to become someone like that.”
He joked that he also might be a lot like Luis Tiant, who was making the rounds Monday on the practice fields outside JetBlue Park.
“Probably, when I’m an old goat and running around,” Martinez said. “I probably won’t have the goatee. I’ll be around like Jim Rice, like El Tiante, Johnny Pesky.”
One thing he assured everyone, he will not be making an Andy Pettitte-like comeback in mid-season.
“No, not at all, not to play. Coming back to see the Sox in first place? Maybe,” Martinez said. “No chance [of pitching]. I just don’t think so. I did what I was supposed to do and that’s it.
“I hope to add some knowledge, any help I can to the staff in every aspect. Could be mechanically, could be in the field, could be off the field, could be mentally, which I know a lot. I know about going through struggles what we go through in the middle of the season, especially after the first half. So, I can relate to them a lot and actually get them going, hopefully and they can come and ask questions and I’ll be more than willing to answer.
“It’s weird but it feels like the first day to me. I get so excited to be a part of this team and be part of the tradition we have here. To me, it was just like the first day. I actually a little funny about putting pair of [uniform] pants on again. In shorts, it’s different. In regular pants like a player.”
Pedro was in uniform, at least gray pants and sweater top.
“Same size, same everything, even though I’m a little heavier,” he said.
Here is the rest of Pedro’s classic and wide-ranging address to reporters:
On the Red Sox letting him go after the 2004 World Series run: “I never held it against them because you have to understand that baseball has a dark side and it’s the negotiations. Every time you’re exposed to arbitration cases and all that, you realize there’s a business part of baseball that forces you to look for a negative about the player and the player actually tries to prove to the team that you’re worth whatever you’re asking. But money makes it all difficult. All that love for one day goes away. Once we settle and we reach agreement, it’s love again.
“It’s just a battle like two boxers. You shake hands before and you shake hands after. It’s boxing and I never held it against Boston that they didn’t sign me. They thought I wasn’t worth what I was asking and I thought I was worth what I was asking. That was it. But no grudges, no grudges, even though I was honest, probably too honest. They got me saying I wanted to stay in Boston. That was a bad decision. I should never had said it. Should have kept it, knowing I was negotiating.”
On watching the 2012 disastrous season from afar: “When they’re in the field, I think they have ways to go around it but when you’re not, it’s an empty feeling that you get inside of you because there’s nothing you can do from the front of your TV. Sometimes, the few games I stopped to watch at Fenway, it was painful to see that the chemistry wasn’t there, the team wasn’t doing what they were supposed to. I was trying to be optimistic about the team playing together all year. That never happened and I know that was one of the biggest reasons why the team didn’t perform to the level that everybody expected the team to play.”
On returning to the field now as an assistant: “No, I never thought about [coaching]. But I knew I wanted to be in the field somehow, not all the time, not all the time. That’s why I automatically erased probably becoming a pitching coach and probably a manager because I don’t really see myself doing 162 games anymore. I did it for my whole career. If I take part in the field, it will be this way.”
“To be honest, I can’t sit still for so long. I have to work. I grew up working. Since I was 14, I was dropped at the academy by Ramon, which was a really good choice. After that, I went on to play and play and play and play and play, and I was never home. Even though my family needs me and I need my family now, I still need some time to actually go away, have a schedule, have something to do and at the same time, be where I like to be, which is in the baseball field, the baseball diamond and exchanging with guys that are like my family.”
On Red Sox GM Ben Cherington: “I became really close to Benny and I told him, I offered him my help. In any sense I can probably help him. I offered to help him out. I just won’t compromise special times with my family. I won’t compromise things that are important to me in my independent life. But as far as anything else, I’m open to do it. If I’m around, I’m open to help the Red Sox.”
On teaching aggressiveness to Red Sox pitchers: “I think it’s more difficult for me to deal with because I can’t pitch. I would love to brush someone back and say, ‘Hey, get off the plate! This is my area!’ Now, I’m going to have to sit and watch and rely on someone to do it so I can get my giddy-up [going].
“You teach them when to do it and how to do it, and how to do it properly and effectively. I think it’s all part of the game. You have to pitch inside. You have to brush them back when you have to. You have to actually make them feel uncomfortable all the time if you want to have success. One of the things that makes you feel uncomfortable is being pitched inside, close to you. At 99, Rubby De La Rosa or Doubront, Lester can get anybody uncomfortable. I will preach and I will say they have to pitch inside if they want to have success.
“It could be taught if you have all the ingredients that lead you to it. You have to want it, you have to be crazy enough to do it, you have to be willing to do it and you have to be willing to learn how to do it. I think if you put all those ingredients together, you have someone competing just the some way I use to. And sack up.”
On what he learned when he was young and receiving tutoring in spring training: “I think I was on the ropes every time since I signed, and before I signed. I was on the ropes all the time, and I was rope-a-doping all the time. Obviously, I developed a pretty good jab that got me away from all those things and made me overcome all those things. I felt like I had no other day every time I took the mound. It was my special day. Today was special. Pedro, the “Little Lizard,” “The Cobra,” whatever name they had for me, Pedey was on the mound, that was today’s special. D-Lowe used to say it all the time, ‘Today is special. The Lizard is on the mound.”
On hitting batters intentionally: “Probably 90 percent of them, but it was all in retaliation for my teammates.”
On Karim Garcia in 2003 ALCS: “It didn’t even hit him. Hit the bat. Lucky bastard. Gerald Williams? Not on purpose.
Reminded of his famous ‘Who is Karim Garcia? line, Martinez laughed again Monday: “Who is Karim Garcia? He hit a great homer for Mexico in the last Caribbean Series. Gerald Williams, no. Karim Garcia, no. There were some others that were in retaliation. Some of them to show them that there were some things that I wouldn’t allow them to do. But a lot of them, you play around it. They understand it, too. They know they’re going to get hit for something that happened. If you disrespect a player, if you disrespect me, I will probably take a chance, [blowout] game, somewhere where you didn’t expect it or you didn’t think I would do it, and there you have it. And yes, it was on purpose and nobody noticed. You do it professionally, without hurting anybody. I don’t remember hitting anybody with a fastball in the head.”
On Jorge Posada: “Never since then. It doesn’t matter. Posada is a human being. He’s got his family. He doesn’t need me in his life. I don’t need him. I wish him well with his family. There are some things that happen in the baseball field. That’s it. In the baseball field, it stays.”
On his coaching technique: “Hopefully, it will be support to some players who don’t feel like they can talk to management or certain areas where they don’t feel confident enough to express themselves and have fun. I was crazy fun in the clubhouse but at the time to play, it was totally different. I know I had something to do. There wasn’t anything more serious than the day I pitched. But if I wasn’t pitching, I was so crazy fun and I believe those guys are going to get to know that, even though I’m not playing, I’m going to keep it loose. I’m going to be loud, and you can do all those things but you have to understand that when it’s time to work, it’s time to work and make a difference between work and loose time and when you have to express something, do it the right way. Hopefully, I’ll be one of the bridges that will reach between the areas they weren’t able to bridge in the last two years.”
On Red Sox dealing with David Ortiz on a year-by-year basis: “I didn’t think it was smart for Boston to do that. I thought they needed a leader, someone that probably understood what went on, and also a veteran, a veteran presence in the clubhouse that everybody can stay under the guidance of David. I’m pretty sure David can be now, along with me and Jason, someone to tell them what to leave alone. When is it time for the media? What you should say to the media and whatnot? If you’re not able to handle the media, and handle it properly, you might as well say I’m not able to answer those things. I think David is the right person to tell them.”
On his legacy: “This may sound weird but I never considered myself a great player. I made myself, along with my teammates, a better player player than I was. I never thought I was a superstar. I worked like I was a hungry man going for his first game in the big leagues. I know that’s not something you probably want to teach Doubront or any of those kids coming up because they are rich in talent. All they have to do is stay physically healthy, use what they have and suck in a lot of the knowledge people are trying to give them. I will say I had to put a lot of the little pieces together to become the player that I was, the pitcher I was. I have a lot of me with Maddux, with Pettitte, with Clemens, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Bret Saberhagen, believe it or not, was someone I really analyzed a lot. Tom Glavine.
“I had a lot of little things that I learned from everybody and I tried to pack them all together and use them. That’s how I became who I was in baseball. But I never considered myself a superstar or super-given talent. I thought that there was a lot of work for me to do each day to be consistent and have success.”
On enthusiastic fan reaction Monday: “It’s because I’m just one more fan out there in a parade. Since I left Boston, it was a parade. People got used to keeping the same attitude.
“They welcome me back a lot. They’re like, ‘Pedro!’ Some of them even asked if I was going to pitch. I said, ‘No, not a chance.’
Why Boston is so special to him: “There’s nothing that I can think of from ’04 or the previous [Red Sox] teams I played for that I don’t miss. I was even telling [clubhouse staffer] Joe Cochran that I even miss seeing the flowers in the spring, when they come out in the first part of the season, when the leafs are starting to come out, the flowers are starting to come out, I love that time. And it’s starting to get warm, and the summer hits, and it’s all flowers. Boston is green and beautiful. I miss all that over the last few years. Even though I visit, not like I used to. But now it’s going to be more often. I’m going to get to see it more often.”
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