FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It doesn't matter if he's pitching or lobbing balls to fungo-hitting Bob Kipper in the bullpen during pitchers' fielding drills. It’s still an event when Pedro Martinez talks.
It was no different Monday, when Martinez made another appearance here in his role as special assistant to general manager Ben Cherington. Manager John Farrell had preceded Martinez’s media session and mentioned Venezuelan lefty Felix Doubront as someone to whom Martinez would give special attention. So there were questions about what role Martinez might play in the care and development of a young pitcher who showed up in less than ideal condition and was slowed up at the start of camp by a little shoulder soreness.
“He’s so young and so full of talent that sometimes we take for granted the opportunity we’re given,’’ Martinez said. “But in the same way it comes, the same way it could go.
“All it takes is a bad injury and you’re out of baseball. The only thing that prevents injuries is hard work. I believe he just doesn’t know and hasn’t been taught that he’s going to be held accountable for his performance out there and the way he looks, and that this is really a serious business. I think it takes a little while to get him mentally prepared to understand the responsibility on top of his shoulder with the whole Boston community and the team.”
Martinez didn’t sound overly concerned with Doubront’s conditioning, saying there was plenty of time to work himself into shape, but added he still needs to be held accountable.
“I think he’s so young,” Martinez said. “Nowadays, these pitchers come up so young and so talented that they don’t realize how much they’re going to be counted on. And I think Doubront is a good example. I think he needs to know that he’s really important to this team, this organization, to the community, to Boston, that they’re counting on him to be one of the big names.
“At the same time, he’s just a young kid trying to develop and he’s already in the big leagues trying to perform. And you have to take that into consideration and be patient with him and at the same time, try to guide him through it.’’
Asked if he could be tough on Doubront if needed, Martinez said:
“Baseball is not easy. It wasn’t easy for me. He has to expect it to be tough. One thing I’m going to be with him, just as I was with all of you, I’m going to be straightforward. I’m going to say the way it is, point-blank, the way it is. If he wants to hear it or if he doesn’t, it’s OK. I just know I want the best for him and I want the best for the organization and I would love to help him.’’
Martinez last pitched in 2009. He said it was time to come back because “I can’t sit still.’’
“I can’t handle the fact that I have all this knowledge and not give it away. I would love to give it away, and I hope [Doubront] sees me as a good example of hard work and dedication.’’
Martinez will not be a daily presence here in camp, but said he expects to be around both here and in Boston to assist in any way he can. Asked if we might expect to see him years from now, he said yes, “when I’m an old goat.’’ He referred to his affection for Johnny Pesky, recalling how Pesky hit fungoes to him in his first year in Boston. “I was proud to know Johnny Pesky,’’ he said. “I hope to become someone like that.’’
Asked how many batters he hit intentionally as a pitcher, Martinez said: "Ninety percent. But almost all of them were in retaliation.’’
Martinez hit 141 batters in his career, or 45 fewer than Tim Wakefield. He laughed when asked if he’d thrown at Karim Garcia of the Yankees in a notorious incident during the 2003 playoffs. “No,’’ he said. “I didn’t hit him. I hit his bat. Lucky bastard.’’
He said he bore no ill will toward the Red Sox when he wasn’t re-signed after the 2004 season, noting that baseball has a “dark side -- negotiations.’’
Nothing, it seems, can spoil the memory of 2004, when the Red Sox won the World Series, ending an 86-year drought.
“There is nothing about 2004 I don't miss,’’ he said.
He even spoke poetically about how much he loved to see the trees bud and flowers bloom during a New England spring. As for the warm reception he received from the fans here, he said: "I'm just another fan in the parade. I am happy they still feel for me.’’