Sox recapture Pedro's magic touch

BOSTON -- Pedro Martinez approached Terry Francona with a copy of the manager's new book, opened to the title page and said, "Will you sign this for me?"

"You sure?" Francona asked. "On a page where you were late?"

"Don't let Shaughnessy rip me apart," Martinez cracked back, referring to Francona's co-author, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy. "Evil eye. He gave me the book."

"He didn't make you pay for it?" Francona said.

It was all played for laughs, of course, Thursday afternoon at a Boston hotel where the Red Sox had just announced that Martinez was joining the Sox and Francona was receiving an award at the 74th annual Boston Baseball Writers award dinner.

Moments earlier, Francona had greeted Martinez warmly and congratulated him on his new job with the Sox.

"What are you, the new general manager?" Francona said. "Are you pitching?"

"No, no more," Martinez said, smiling. "No, none. I'm an assistant."

It has been more than three years since Martinez pitched his last game in the big leagues, losing the deciding game of the 2010 World Series for the Philadelphia Phillies against the champion New York Yankees.

Martinez is 41 now, and months ago had suggested he would return to the Sox in some capacity. That day came Tuesday, when the Red Sox announced that Martinez will be a special assistant to general manager Ben Cherington. He becomes the second high-profile member of the Sox to return to the team in that capacity, joining former catcher Jason Varitek.

What brought Martinez back? Boredom, perhaps?

"I did get bored," he said. "If I say no, I'd be lying. You know what I miss? Competing."

His days as a competitive pitcher, alas, are over, after a career in which his greatest years came with the Red Sox, especially in a span from 1998 to 2000, when a case could be made he was the most dominant pitcher in the game's history.

Now his return to the field will revolve around mentoring young pitchers in Boston's minor league camp, as well as being a resource for the big league team, available to step in wherever he might be needed.

Juan Nieves is Boston's new pitching coach, the team's fourth in the past three years. That includes new manager John Farrell, who was pitching coach in 2010 before being Toronto's manager the past two seasons.

Martinez was asked if there was any danger in having too many voices in camp, especially given the turnover in the pitching-coach position here.

"That's not my area," he said. "Anything I can help with -- the pitching coach and I might get together to help, but no, I don't want to get my nose between anybody.

"I don't want to be a pitching coach. I don't have the time. I wanted to be a father. I wanted to be a husband. I wanted to be a family member. I don't think being a pitching coach allows me more time than I had as a player.

"I'm going to be helping the organization, mentoring kids. No way will I get between the pitching coach. No managing, either. I'll help how I can."

Martinez plans to be in spring training, but for how much time he couldn't say. He spends much of his time in Miami now, where his wife, Carolina, is active in work for his youth baseball foundation, and where he has a 31-foot boat. "I like to fish," he said. Older brother Ramon also lives in the Miami area and is a minor league supervisor for the Dodgers, and Martinez built a house there for his mother. Another sister also lives there.

"Honestly, I think it's time for me to be a family member," he said. "Now that I've had a few years to think about it and be a father and see my kids play, that's important."

His children, he said, are now 12 and 13.

When Martinez was a child, one of his caretakers was the grandmother of Rubby De La Rosa, the promising right-hander with a 100 mph fastball who was acquired from the Dodgers in last August's blockbuster trade. Earlier this month, De la Rosa had mentioned he'd gotten to know Martinez through the family connection, and that Martinez had taught him his changeup.

All true, Martinez said. De la Rosa hasn't mastered the change, but it's getting there; he just needs to learn to command it better.

"Believe me, the talent is there," Martinez said of De la Rosa. "I'm not lying. You'll see this kid in spring training. Watch out. Watch out."

Martinez became excited when reminded of how the Dodgers had traded him 21 years ago and came to regret it. Could the same happen with De la Rosa?

"I wonder," he said. "Can you imagine if the same thing happens? The Dodgers wouldn't trade another Dominican player ever if Rubby does it. Watch out."