FORT MYERS, Fla. — J.D. Martinez has only been a member of the Boston Red Sox for a week. He’s already getting a feel for just how high the expectations are for this team.

Last week Martinez spent a half hour answering questions from Sox season-ticket holders in a conference call I hosted. It didn’t take long to see how fans are expecting Martinez to be the man in the middle of the 2018 Sox lineup. In fact, it took exactly four calls.

“Are you looking forward to launching bombs against the Yankees?” asked the caller.

Martinez laughed and said he was. He said he was also looking forward to producing against other teams. When he was asked why he chose Boston over other teams to sign with he said “because it’s Boston.

“This is awesome because fans are so passionate about baseball,” said Martinez. “I love it.”

The newest Sox slugger also loves to hit. He’s somewhat of a hitting savant. He spends hours looking at videos of his swing, and even has video of his work in the batting cage sent to his personal swing coach. He evaluates every swing – good or bad – in a relentless pursuit of perfection.


“I’ll be looking at an iPad, and someone will ask what game I’m playing,” said Martinez. “I tell them ‘I’m not playing a game, I’m looking at swings.”

This is how Martinez will help lead the Red Sox in 2018. He’s not a vocal veteran, but he’s relentless in his pursuit of excellence. It’s the type of dedication that can be contagious in a clubhouse.

What does he tell younger players who seek his advice?

“Stay hungry,” said Martinez. “Never be satisfied. Keep working, and have fun doing it.”

Alex Cora spent some of last week on the East Coast of Florida with the Sox playing games in West Palm and Jupiter. He hasn’t spent a lot of time with his new hitter yet, but he likes his early impressions.

“Everything they say about his preparation and his work in the field? It’s real,” said Cora.


How serious is Martinez about hitting? He said he planned to ask hitting coach Tim Hyers to hold hitters meetings before each series. Players usually avoid meetings like the plague, but Martinez said the meetings he was part of in Arizona last season were a huge help to a team that rolled into the postseason.

Martinez said he learned from hitters like the Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt, and from great Tigers hitters like Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Now he’s the center of a Boston lineup that led the league in runs scored two years ago but was last in home runs last season without the newly retired David Ortiz.

The newest member of the Red Sox isn’t Big Papi. No one is. But, after spending a year talking about the void left behind by a premier slugger, Sox fans are finally looking forward to what a new slugger will do. After spending the winter talking about the Yankees’ powerful lineup, we’re talking about a Sox lineup that just might be deep enough to lead them to a third straight divisional title.

Of course, Martinez isn’t the one doing the talking. He’ll let us do that. He’ll be in the cage taking extra cuts, or in the video room looking at a breakdown of his swing. He’d rather let his actions do the talking.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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