Red Sox

J.D. Martinez makes Red Sox spring training debut

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AP Photo

J.D. Martinez makes Red Sox spring training debut

Star slugger J.D. Martinez went 0 for 2 in his spring training debut for the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday, just three weeks before opening day.

"He's not behind at all," new manager Alex Cora said.

Although Martinez will be Boston's primary designated hitter, he also is expected to get time in the field. With the Red Sox playing split-squad games, he played left field and batted cleanup.

Facing Twins right-hander Jake Odorizzi, Martinez twice flied out.

"Seeing the ball, just going up there and trying to slow the ball down as best as I can, and swing at strikes," Martinez said. "Really, that's all I was really worried about, just get a pitch over the plate and put a good swing on it."

"It felt good. It was fun. You don't realize how much you miss something until you can't do it and you haven't been able to do it for a while. So it was fun to get out there," he said.

The AL East champion Red Sox announced Feb. 26 they had signed Martinez to a $110 million, five-year deal. The 30-year-old hit a combined .303 with 45 home runs and 104 RBIs last season in just 119 games with Detroit and Arizona.

In his first game for Boston, Martinez hit behind Hanley Ramirez, who was serving as the DH. It's a combination the Red Sox hope will add punch to a lineup that finished last in the American League with 168 home runs last season.

"He was designated for assignment four years ago (by the Astros, at the end of spring training in 2014), and now he's going to hit in the middle of the lineup for the Boston Red Sox, with a team that has a chance to win the World Series," Cora said.

"There's no coincidence that he's been successful the last few years because he found it and he keeps working on it," he said.

Martinez said he typically likes to get 60 to 80 at-bats in the spring, including Grapefruit League and minor league games, to prepare for the season.

Despite the delayed start to Martinez's spring, Cora said he believes the big hitter is right on pace for the season opener March 29 at Tampa Bay.

"It's a spring training game, so he needs his reps," Cora said. "But to see him out there, actually to see him around, spend time with him, it's a lot different than the last week."

"We've been on the road so much since he signed we haven't been able to connect. So to have him in the lineup, have him in the dugout, that's good, not only for me but for everybody," he said.

Martinez knows there are big hopes for him, but he's not letting that affect him.

"I feel like you guys have the expectations, the fans and the media," he said. "Really, I'm just going to go out there and play my game and do what I've been doing for the last four or five years."

"As far as the pressure and stuff goes, I'm just going to try to go out there and play my game. Obviously, ignore it, stuff like that. Obviously, playing in Boston, it's a big market, so there's going to be a lot more, but I think it'll be a good test of handling it," he said.

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Eduardo Rodriguez hype is real, but one specific area of the southpaw's game needs improvement

Eduardo Rodriguez hype is real, but one specific area of the southpaw's game needs improvement

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Oftentimes, hype doesn’t translate into results. But there’s plenty of reason to believe the preseason hype surrounding Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez will.

Rodriguez has been the star of camp so far this spring. The hard-throwing southpaw has been working with ace Chris Sale on his slider, and it’s turned his live batting practice sessions into must-watch events.

"Eddie looks great, man,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said on Tuesday. "Eddie's working a slider now. He understands who he is a little more. The work he put in the offseason is paying off -- repeating his delivery. You ask any of those guys, and everybody was watching -- I think he's kind of like the favorite pitcher of the whole camp. When he throws live BPs everybody is out there watching.”

Cora also said at the beginning of camp that Rodriguez is “in the best shape of his life.” You hear that a lot about a number of players this time of year, but when you see E-Rod up close and personal, you’ll know it isn’t all talk.

Also raving about the 25-year-old is Red Sox great Pedro Martinez, who called Rodriguez’s live BP on Tuesday “one of the most impressive” he’s seen, and “beautiful to watch.”

⚾️ SPRING TRAINING 2019

The question with Rodriguez — once Boston’s top pitching prospect after being acquired from Baltimore — isn’t whether he has the “stuff” to be a frontline starter. His mid-90s fastball along with a changeup that bewilders left-handed batters speaks for itself. Combine those with a slider that looks to be improving this spring, and Rodriguez could be on track to set career highs in a handful of categories just as he did last season.

Where the problem lies for Rodriguez is his inability to consistently pitch deep into games. In 2018, he pitched six innings or more in only eight of his 23 starts. Not once did he pitch through the seventh. An ankle injury suffered in July likely played a factor during the second half of the season, but early exits have been an issue throughout the Venezuelan’s young career.

In fact, both Cora and Rodriguez acknowledged the lefty's struggles with early exits last June.

“I feel there’s more there,” Cora said after Rodriguez pitched 5 2/3 innings versus Baltimore. “There’s certain games we need our starters to go deeper, and today was one of them. He gave us what he gave, but I think the next step is for him to get through six, seven innings. And he can do that.”

“That’s not a really good feeling for a starting pitcher,” Rodriguez said after the start. “You just need to keep working. It’s going to come one day, but I’ve just got to keep working to try to get deep into games.”

⚾️ SPRING TRAINING 2019

There’s still plenty of untapped potential with Rodriguez. If what we’ve seen this spring is any indication of what’s to come, Red Sox fans are in for a treat. 

But as impressive he’s been during live BP, and as nasty as his reinvented slider has looked, Rodriguez needs to show it can not only be carried over to the regular season, but that it can be done for six or seven innings consistently.

If he can do that, look out. The hype exists for a reason.

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MLB Odds: Red Sox not even favored to win AL East as defending champs

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USA TODAY Sports Images

MLB Odds: Red Sox not even favored to win AL East as defending champs

The Boston Red Sox are the defending World Series champions, but oddsmakers aren't even picking them to win the American League East in 2019.

The New York Yankees are the current favorites to win the division on the MLB futures odds. The Yanks did make a few improvements to their roster over the offseason with the additions of starting pitcher James Paxton and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, but the Red Sox have brought back a large majority of the 2018 roster that won a franchise-record 108 games and beat three 100-win opponents in the postseason.

Rounding out the rest of the division odds are the Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles, in that order. The Blue Jays aren't expected to compete for a playoff spot this season, but the potential arrival of top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as a full-time major league player should be an exciting storyline to follow. 

The Orioles are destined for another last-place finish and are +8000 (!) to win the division. No other team in baseball has worse odds to win its division. 

Check out the latest odds for the 2019 AL East crown (via OddsShark):

New York Yankees: +100
Boston Red Sox: +120
Tampa Bay Rays: +900
Toronto Blue Jays: +1800
Baltimore Orioles: +8000

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