BOSTON — Few active White Sox players ever faced Pedro Martinez, but for Melky Cabrera those moments are some of his favorites.
Cabrera grew up about 15 minutes away from where Martinez did in the Dominican Republic and idolized the Hall of Famer, who had his number retired by the Boston Red Sox before Tuesday’s game. The White Sox outfielder said he looked forward to watching Tuesday’s ceremony in person.
“They were very special moments for me because like everyone has said, he’s 'Pedro Grande' and he’s one of the best from the Dominican Republic, and to be able to face him was exciting,” Cabrera said through an interpreter.
Cabrera went 2-for-8 with a walk against Martinez, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday alongside players Craig Biggio, John Smoltz and Randy Johnson.
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Designated hitter Adam LaRoche had the most plate appearances of any current White Sox, going 4-for-23. LaRoche caught Martinez at the end of his career when he threw 90-91 instead of 95. Give how difficult Martinez was to face then, LaRoche can only imagine how good he was at the start of his career.
“One game we had to go into the sixth inning before he threw a fastball,” LaRoche said. “I don’t know if he was doing it just to see if he could. He had two different kinds of changeups he was using and a curveball or slider and after like the second or third inning we’re thinking ‘OK, that must be his fastball today, he must be hurting or something.’ Then in the sixth he threw one at 90 or 91 or whatever and started using his fastball again. Sure enough he was shutting us down with basically a changeup and a real slow changeup. Just a creative mind and knew how to get guys out.”
Robin Ventura led the White Sox coaching staff with 21 at-bats against Martinez. His three hits are tied with Harold Baines, who faced Martinez 13 times. Joe McEwing went 2-for-3 against Martinez.
“It wasn’t fun,” Ventura said. “I probably helped him get there.
“He could throw anything at any time.”
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Cabrera has had a chance to get to know Martinez over the years and calls him a friend. He said he respects Martinez just as much off the field as from his playing days.
“He’s a great human being,” Cabrera said. “When he was on the field, he was outstanding. He was aggressive because that is his nature and because he liked to compete. But off the field he also was a great person. He’s humble. In the Dominican Republic, he’s an idol, and he was my idol also.”
Zach Duke went 0-for-2 against Martinez and Jeff Samardzija went 0-for-1. Bench coach Mark Parent went 0-for-5 against Martinez.