Alex Cora envisions more right field in J.D. Martinez's future this season

Nick Friar
March 09, 2019 - 12:04 pm
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FORT MYERS—When the Red Sox acquired J.D. Martinez, there were questions about his defensive capabilities. Combined with Fenway Park's unique dimensions, it didn't appear he'd factor into the outfield game plan much, if at all. Yet by the season's end, he appeared in 57 games in the outfield.

Though he spent most of them in left field, playing 32 in front of the Green Monster, Alex Cora shifted Martinez over to right as the season progressed. By the time the World Series rolled around, he started two of the three games in Los Angeles in right, shifting back-and-forth between right and left on the other occasion.

Heading into the 2019 season, Cora expects to primarily use Martinez in right when he factors into the defense, moving Mookie Betts over to center field or keeping Jackie Bradley Jr. there, while Andrew Benintendi stays in left.

"As far as positioning, we put him spots that he's going to make plays, and he actually makes good decisions," Cora said. "Throwing-wise, he throws to the right bases and he has a good arm and then … Mookie is a great centerfielder. I think we maximize everybody that way. Actually, I feel we were better defensively when we went that way, instead of early in the season. We'll stick to that one."

While the Monster poses its share of challenges, right field in Fenway is no cakewalk either. There's far more ground to cover, which would seem like more of a problem for Martinez. But with the Red Sox' continued use of advanced analytics, Boston feels he'll continue to perform well.

"With everything that we get information-wise, you put him in a spot that he's going to make plays," Cora said. "It's more than—with our defense, and everybody in the big leagues, it's not about just putting three guys out there and let's play guys here. A lot of stuff goes into consideration: first step, speed, all this cool stuff, all the information we get and then you put them there.

"If you take a look, let's say we're playing the Mets, and you got Benny, JBJ and Mookie and then you look at how we play defense with J.D. in right, well, Mookie and J.D. don't play in the same spot. There's a lot of information that goes into. He did well. I think the only play that everybody remembers that he missed was the one in the World Series. But I played in Dodger Stadium, I knew around that time (of the day) something like that was going to happen. It happened to me when I played there. (At dusk) it's tough to see it. But then he made a great play down the line. So, that's the way it works. J.D., he played good defense for us. He made some good plays early in the season in Toronto, the one in Detroit, I didn't like it because he banged himself into the wall, but he made a great play. Obviously, the other three together, they're elite. I love the fact that the way they're talking, they want to be the first trio in Major League history to win the Gold Glove, but with J.D. we're comfortable, too."

Cora expects Martinez to play in the outfield roughly as much as he did last year; if for no other reason than to help him secure more hardware for his trophy case.

"I'm trying to get him another Silver Slugger," Cora said. "You've got to call Scott (Boras) about that one. We'll figure it out. Obviously, rest comes into play. Mookie got hurt. He likes playing the outfield, but he understands, too, who is playing the outfield for us. Hopefully, nobody gets hurt. They just get off days and we can rest the guys. If something like that happens I see him playing enough outfield."

 

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