Boston’s Martinez holds no grudge
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.
Boston designated hitter J.D. Martinez (left) and Houston’s Jose Altuve (center) came up together in the Astros’ minor-league system.