Catcher Jason Varitek used to call Pedro Martinez "Channel 11"
because of the pitcher's sticklike legs. "No more 11," Martinez
boasted this month to Varitek after adding 10 pounds through a
rigorous winter training program. "Call me 12." Said Varitek,
"I'll give you 11 1/2. Maybe."
Since Feb. 27 Boston has changed owners, general managers,
managers, scouting directors, managers again, hitting coaches
and corporate cultures. For all those machinations, though,
absolutely nothing has changed when it comes to the fate of the
ball club: It falls hard and heavy on the spindly frame of
Martinez. Once again the Red Sox have patched together a
rotation behind Martinez with glue and duct tape and will pray
that it--along with Martinez's severely stressed shoulder--holds.
Through four seasons in Boston, Martinez has a .778 winning
percentage (70-20, including the postseason) for a team that is
a mediocre .505 (288-283) without him. Boston has tried 28 other
starters in the rotation during the Pedro era, and only one,
knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, has thrown 200 innings in a season
(1998); none has won more than 13 games in a year.
The Red Sox farm system has been so fallow that no home-grown
pitcher has started 20 games in a season for the Sox since Jeff
Suppan in 1997. That shortcoming led since-ousted G.M. Dan
Duquette to operate like a used-tire salesman, peddling retreads
and imminent blowouts. "My only worry is the day I pitch,"
Martinez said. "But it would be nice to know that if you fail,
you still have a chance to see a win the next day."
None of the four projected starters behind Martinez has had much
success starting in the American League. John Burkett is 32-35
in the AL (109-84 in the NL); AL newcomer Dustin Hermanson was
61-61 in the NL, with one 200-inning season; Frank Castillo gave
Boston only 136 2/3 innings last year; and Derek Lowe enters the
rotation after failing as a closer in 2001.
To prepare for the grind of a full season as a starter, Lowe
gained 25 pounds over the winter and started throwing in January
to regain the feel for his curveball and cutter, pitches he had
little use for as a closer. "You get to work on your craft," Lowe
said about the predictable schedule of a starter. "You get to
lift weights, throw on the side, play golf.... I love it."
Martinez said he hopes his added poundage will help him avoid the
shoulder trouble that has hampered him over the last three
seasons. Martinez said he worked "harder than ever before" in the
winter, visiting a gym in Fort Myers, Fla., every night after his
normal training routine to keep his shoulder strong.
Shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, who played in only 21 games last
year because of a tear in a wrist tendon, reported none of the
troublesome swelling in spring training that he experienced last
year. Varitek, who played in only 51 games, is back from a
fractured elbow. The signing of free-agent centerfielder Johnny
Damon (27 steals) adds speed to what was the worst running team
in baseball last year (46 steals).
New owners Larry Lucchino, Tom Werner and John Henry have thrown
out the Ministry of Disinformation style of Duquette and CEO
John Harrington and are courting the Boston media. New manager
Grady Little has the easygoing clubhouse charm lacking in last
year's manager, Joe Kerrigan. "In fairness to Joe," Lowe said of
the 17-26 collapse under Kerrigan, "the ship was sinking, and it
didn't matter who was coming on board."
Boston would like to think a new era has begun. All of Red Sox
Nation will be watching Channel 11 for updates. --T.V.
COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON Boston's recent history is littered with quick fixes gone wrong; the speedy Damon is one that should go right.
COLOR PHOTO: CRAIG AMBROSIO/GETTY IMAGES LOWE
Rickey Henderson has 1,395 stolen bases since the start of the
1979 season, 13 more than his new team in that span.
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Red Sox
"I think this club can stay with the Yankees. The atmosphere has
changed.... Boston's problems will be with middle relief and its
ability to catch the ball in the infield.... Grady Little will
bring a sense of calm after a long storm. You'll see a drastic
turnaround mediawise, which will make it easier for them on the
field.... Pedro Martinez is healthy and throwing well. In one
spring start I saw him throw five straight curveballs, just
working on the hook, and then buzz a fastball in at 93, 94. When
he's playing around like that, it's a sign he's healthy. And
that changeup is as filthy as ever.... Dustin Hermanson will
find out it's a way different game in the American League. I
don't think he'll start off as hot as everyone expects. When
you're not a stuff guy, it takes a while to get used to a
switch, because you have to learn the hitters' tendencies. Plus
he's pitched in two big parks [Montreal and St. Louis], and now
he's in a small park.... Derek Lowe has really taken to the
rotation. He gets to use his heavy sinker, his curve is back,
and he can lengthen himself out. He really likes it.... Tony
Clark will improve because of the lineup he's hitting in. If
he's sandwiched between Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez,
he'll get a lot of pitches to hit. He's better from the right
side and has power he can use all over the field....
Defensively, first, second and third base will be average or
below, but this will be a better fielding club because Johnny
Damon is a big improvement over Carl Everett in center."
projected roster with 2001 statistics
PLAYER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
CF Johnny Damon L 82 .256 9 49 27
RF Trot Nixon L 92 .280 27 88 7
SS Nomar Garciaparra R 32 .289 4 8 0
LF Manny Ramirez R 15 .306 41 125 0
1B Tony Clark S-R 140 .287 16 75 0
DH Brian Daubach L-R 165 .263 22 71 1
C Jason Varitek S-R 180 .293 7 25 0
2B Jose Offerman S-R 293 .267 9 49 5
3B Shea Hillenbrand R 230 .263 12 49 3
OF Rickey HendersonR-L 251 .227 8 42 25
IF Lou Merloni R 340 .267 3 13 2
PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA
RH Pedro Martinez 1 7 3 6.5 0.93 2.39
RH John Burkett 55 12 12 6.5 1.17 3.04
RH Dustin Hermanson144 14 13 5.8 1.39 4.45
RH Derek Lowe 95 5 10 5.3 1.44 3.53
LH Frank Castillo 129 10 9 5.3 1.27 4.21
PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA
RH Ugueth Urbina* 75 2 2 24 1.23 3.65
RH Rich Garces 122 6 1 1 1.19 3.90
RH Tim Wakefield 172 9 12 3 1.36 3.90
New acquisition (R) Rookie B-T: Bats-throws IPS: Innings
pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched PVR: Player
Value Ranking (explanation on page 154)
*Combined AL and NL stats
first season with Boston
second in AL East
IN THE FIELD
with defensive ratings