Bos­ton’s Martinez holds no grudge

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - BASEBALL -

J.D. Martinez wants to thank the Hous­ton Astros — not get back at them — for re­leas­ing him when he was strug­gling to make him­self into a star.

The Red Sox des­ig­nated hit­ter cred­its his grow­ing pains in Hous­ton for teach­ing him “how to fail,” a les­son he cred­its with trans­form­ing him into an MVP can­di­date who helped Bos­ton win a fran­chis­ere­cord 108 games and reach the Amer­i­can League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries against his for­mer team.

“My fail­ures in Hous­ton is what made me who I am,” Martinez said Fri­day, a day be­fore the Astros and Red Sox open the best-of-seven se­ries. “There’s re­ally no an­i­mos­ity there. In a sense they did me a fa­vor by al­low­ing me to leave and play on an­other team.”

It will be the sec­ond straight year the Red Sox and Astros meet in the post­sea­son — last year it was the AL Di­vi­sion Se­ries — and the sec­ond straight year that Bos­ton’s Chris Sale will go against Hous­ton’s Justin Ver­lan­der in the opener.

The big­gest dif­fer­ence this time: Bos­ton has Martinez on its side.

And the Astros could have.

Martinez made his big-league de­but for Hous­ton in 2011, driv­ing in 28 runs in his first full month in the ma­jors. Af­ter play­ing part time the next two years — hit­ting 18 homers with 91 RBIs in 199 games — he was 26 years old and bat­ting .167 in the spring of 2014 when the Astros re­leased him, pre­fer­ring to give the at-bats to top prospect Ge­orge Springer.

Martinez landed with De­troit that sea­son and by 2015 he was an All­Star, hit­ting 38 homers with 102 RBIs. He hit 45 homers last year, when he was traded from the Tigers to Di­a­mond­backs and was 14th in MVP vot­ing de­spite play­ing just 62 games in the NL.

“I al­ways be­lieved he’s go­ing to be the player he is right now,” said Astros sec­ond base­man Jose Al­tuve, the reign­ing AL MVP, who came up through the mi­nors with Martinez. “He got a cou­ple of tough years with us in the big leagues. But I think the best thing that hap­pened to him was go­ing to the Tigers and be­com­ing the player that he is.”

Ver­lan­der was Martinez’s team­mate in De­troit and said he was “there from the mo­ment he turned his ca­reer around.”

“He went and com­pletely re­vamped his swing that off­sea­son, and saw im­me­di­ate div­i­dends,” Ver­lan­der said. He “never stopped hit­ting. See­ing some­body like that who works so hard and turned their ca­reer around to where he’s at now, as a fel­low player, you re­spect it. I’m happy for him. I re­ally am.”

Now Martinez is one of the keys — with right fielder Mookie Betts, who is ex­pected to edge him for the AL MVP award — on a Red Sox team that won a third straight AL East ti­tle but ad­vanced in the play­offs for the first time since 2013, elim­i­nat­ing the New York Yan­kees in the ALDS.

The Cen­tral Di­vi­sion cham­pion Astros did OK, too, win­ning their first World Se­ries last year; Springer was Se­ries MVP. So, no hard feel­ings. “God gave me an­other op­por­tu­nity and put me in a good sit­u­a­tion with De­troit. And that’s kind of where I con­tin­ued to grow un­til where I am to­day, re­ally,” Martinez said. “And if it wasn’t for that I prob­a­bly wouldn’t be here right now. Who knows where I would have been?” Yan­kees news: Short­stop Didi Gre­go­rius needs Tommy John surgery on his right el­bow af­ter in­jur­ing him­self mak­ing a throw in Bos­ton dur­ing the ALDS, Yan­kees gen­eral man­ager Brian Cash­man said.

Cash­man said Gre­go­rius will be out “un­til some­time next sum­mer.” The GM said the team will have a bet­ter idea about Gre­go­rius’ re­turn af­ter the surgery, which has yet to be sched­uled.

Sec­ond base­man Gley­ber Tor­res is the Yan­kees’ top in­ter­nal can­di­date to re­place Gre­go­rius at short­stop, Cash­man said.

Pitcher Sonny Gray ap­pears on his way out of the Bronx. An All­Star with the A’s in 2015, he’s just 15-16 with a 4.51 ERA since Oak­land traded him to New York on July 31, 2017.

“Prob­a­bly best to try this some­where else,” Cash­man said. “Some­one, if they trade for him, is go­ing to get the player we wanted. It just hasn’t worked out here.”

Left-han­der CC Sa­bathia had cleanup surgery on his right knee. He’s had surgery on the same knee in the past, and been slowed by trou­ble there in the past. He’s el­i­gi­ble for free agency, and Cash­man said the Yan­kees haven’t held their or­ga­ni­za­tional meet­ings to map out the fu­ture.

Sa­bathia, 38, was 9-7 with a 3.65 ERA in 29 starts this year, but strug­gled in Game 4 of the play­offs. He is ex­pected to be fine for the start of spring train­ing. Rangers, Gi­rardi meet: For­mer Yan­kees and Mar­lins man­ager Joe Gi­rardi met with Texas of­fi­cials about the Rangers’ man­age­rial open­ing. Gi­rardi was the first per­son with big-league manag­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in­ter­viewed by the team, which is look­ing to re­place fired man­ager Jeff Banis­ter.

Karen War­ren / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle

Bos­ton des­ig­nated hit­ter J.D. Martinez (left) and Hous­ton’s Jose Al­tuve (cen­ter) came up to­gether in the Astros’ mi­nor-league sys­tem.

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