Martinez: Fail­ure paid off

Grow­ing pains as As­tro shaped Red Sox slug­ger

Baltimore Sun - - BASEBALL - By Jimmy Golen

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

The Red Sox slug­ger 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 the Red Sox win a fran­chise-record 108 games and reach the AL 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 ALDS — and the sec­ond straight year that aces Chris Sale will go against Justin Ver­lan­der in the opener.

The big­gest dif­fer­ence this time: the Red Sox have Martinez on their side.

And the Astros could have.

Martinez made his bigleague de­but for the Astros 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 Red Sox out­fielder J.D. Martinez on his early-ca­reer strug­gles: “My fail­ures in Hous­ton is what made me who I am.” G1: Astros (Ver­lan­der) at Red Sox (Sale) 8:09 p.m. Satur­day, TBS G2: Astros (Cole) at Red Sox (Price) 7:09 p.m. Sun­day, TBS G3: Red Sox at Astros 5:09 p.m. Tues­day, TBS G4: Red Sox at Astros 8:39 p.m. Wed­nes­day, TBS G5: Red Sox at Astros 8:09 p.m. Thurs­day, TBS G6: Astros at Red Sox 5:09 p.m. Oct. 20, TBS G7: Astros at Red Sox 7:39 p.m. Oct. 21, TBS Games 5-7 if nec­es­sary t op prospect Ge­orge Springer.

Martinez landed with the Tigers that sea­son and by 2015 he was an All-Star, 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, and you re­spect it and I’m happy for him. I re­ally am.”

MIKE STOBE/GETTY

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