August 13, 2022

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J.D. able to 'soak it all in' as Deadline looms

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Martinez doubles twice, fuels key 5-run 5th in potential Fenway finale with Sox
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BOSTON — On the last day of July, a sun-splashed Sunday afternoon, it finally felt like summer at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox, silenced for most of an 8-19 month, went on a doubles spree, belting eight of them to the various nooks and crannies of MLB’s oldest ballpark. Four of them came in succession during a wild five-run bottom of the fifth.

This was not insignificant. Not only did Martinez break out of an 0-for-25 drought with that pair of two-baggers, but there was the chance he was playing his final home game at Fenway Park.

At 51-52, Boston is 3 1/2 games back in the hunt for an American League Wild Card. Of the seven teams vying for the three spots, the Red Sox rank seventh.

With the Trade Deadline looming on Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET, Martinez is fully aware of the rumors that surround him. He is a free agent at season’s end.

“I’m not blind,” Martinez said. “I know what’s going on.”

Though his five years in Boston have generally been what the club had hoped, the right-handed hitter, who turns 35 on Aug. 21, might not fit into the team’s future plans. 

The circumstances that surrounded Sunday led Martinez to soak it all in. 

“I appreciate everything. I appreciate the love,” Martinez said. “Just the constant energy every time you come in here. It’s something, if I do get traded, I’m definitely going to miss. These fans are as hard on me as I am on myself and I appreciate everything.”

When Martinez got to the Red Sox in February 2018, he and his new club were a perfect match.

Boston didn’t fill the void left by David Ortiz during the ’17 season and they were knocked out by the Astros in the AL Division Series. Martinez was the missing piece, and he was thrilled to play in a big market for the first time in his career.

At the height of his powers in ’18, Martinez helped the Sox add 15 wins to their regular-season win total from the previous year. A 108-54 juggernaut ran through the postseason at an 11-3 clip and won it all. Martinez has been one of the best free-agent signings in club history.

In ’21, Martinez helped get the Sox within two games of the World Series, posting a 1.135 OPS in nine playoff games.

But these are different times for Boston. As the record shows, the club has holes. Meanwhile, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is always trying to deepen the farm system. Trading Martinez could help with one or both of those issues.

Martinez isn’t alone on Boston’s trade block. Nathan Eovaldi and Christian Vázquez, two other core players from the 2018 title run, are also in walk years. Bloom indicated he won’t deal All-Stars Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers.

“We’re still here,” Vázquez said. “We control what we can control. We’re here fighting together. We are family and we’re going to continue until we see what happens in these couple of days. We’re still here with this uniform and I hope we can stay here.”

The narrative entering the homestand was that the Red Sox needed to win to become buyers instead of sellers. The homestand concluded at 3-7, and you wonder if the players pressed too much in hopes of keeping the team together.

“I feel like the pressure has been like that since we came back from the All-Star break,” Martinez said. “Everybody feels like you’re fighting for your life, fighting to keep the band together. I think that’s what has hurt us honestly. But it is what it is.”

The Red Sox next head to Houston on Monday to begin a three-game series against the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

As they left Fenway Park, there was a feeling of uncertainty of what the team would look like at the start of the next homestand on Aug. 8. That feeling stretched from the stands to the clubhouse.

“We’ll stay together,” Vázquez said. “We’ll fight together to the end.”

Martinez hopes this isn’t the end. But if it is, he will cherish these five years.

“It’s a first-class organization,” Martinez said. “And you look at it and think about winning.”

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