10/05/2004 5:01 PM ET
Martinez armed and ready
Sox ace looks to rebound after four straight losses
By Paul C. Smith / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- The regular season is over and the slate has been wiped clean.
|Pedro Martinez is 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA in eight playoff appearances with the Red Sox. (Charles Krupa/AP)
At least the Red Sox and their fans hope that is true in the case of Pedro Martinez.
The 32-year-old right-hander is coming off four straight losses, two each to the Yankees and Devil Rays. It was one of the most difficult stretches for Martinez since he broke into the Major Leagues with the Dodgers.
Overall, it was a very good season for Martinez. He ended up 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA in 217 innings. He and Curt Schilling combined for 37 wins, most by any American League teammates. And they both finished up among the league leaders in wins, ERA, strikeouts and innings pitched.
But still, the question has to be asked, "Which Pedro Martinez will make the start on Wednesday night in Anaheim?
"You know, I've been asked that question so many times," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "I can't tell you how excited I will be to hand him the ball. I think there is a little more gamesmanship there with Pedro than maybe people realize. I think people that know him probably understand that. I don't think his confidence is going to be down going into that game."
Francona added that he didn't think the last four starts of the season were a case of Martinez not showing everything he has.
"I don't think that," Francona said. "I don't think he was real pleased with the way he pitched at times. I just don't think Pedro is going to be nervous or scared or not confident to go out there tomorrow night. He will be OK.
"At times, what people say in postgame interviews, I don't give a lot of credence to. Half the time they are naked, they are thinking about something else, they've got to give a quote. It's just not that big a deal to me.
"I have looked back at some of the things I have said after games and you think back and you think, 'Pretty stupid. Why did I say that?' Or, 'That isn't what he meant.' It doesn't mean a lot."
Martinez reached 96 mph a couple of innings into his final start at Tampa Bay. But Francona said he doesn't always like to judge a pitcher by his velocity.
"In Tampa, he looked like he got a little aggravated and threw the ball very hard," Francona said. "He threw the ball by some hitters, but rather than the radar gun, I think the way a guy is throwing tells you how far good their fast ball is.
"And I think when he has run into problems, it's been location and command. If he is commanding, I am not sure it matters how hard he is throwing because he has four pitches and he can do what he wants to with them. He has had some tremendous success this year, some big games where he wasn't throwing the ball 96."
Center fielder and leadoff man Johnny Damon said he believes Martinez will return to form for this series.
"Yes, he has struggled down the stretch, but his pitches seem to be OK," Damon said. "I mean, he hit 96 the last outing. You know, I think he is just playing coy maybe, but he is going to be ready to pitch. He is acting like he doesn't have much left in the tank but he has been great down there in the clubhouse. He has been talking. He has been having fun. And he is going to be ready to pitch."
Damon said things just seem to change when it's time to play in October.
"I think Pedro is going to be fresher," Damon said. "He is definitely in great spirits. When he made those comments, you know, he was just speaking. You know, he wasn't really so upset about getting beat by the Yankees that game.
"But he is ready to pitch, and he is ready to pitch in this series. And, if we get the Yankees again -- hopefully we can get past the Angels -- he is going to be ready and he is going to show why he has been one of the best pitchers for a long time."
All Angels manager Mike Scioscia knows is that Martinez pitched six innings against his team on July 16 in Anaheim and looked just fine as the Red Sox won, 4-2.
"Pedro Martinez, even when he is off, is pretty darn good," Scioscia said.
Martinez will be sharing the mound in Game 2 with a friend from the Dominican Republic, Bartolo Colon. Martinez and Colon faced off in the playoffs in 1999 when Colon was with the Indians. But neither pitcher was involved in the decision in an extra-inning game.
"Pedro and I talk during the offseason, we are close," Colon said. "He is one of my favorite pitchers to watch. And he is a guy who has always spoken to me about pitching. He has motivated me with his words and the way he speaks to me about approaching the game.
"But I am not going to worry about Pedro. I'm going to worry about the batters."
So, which pitcher will the fans in the Dominican be rooting for?
"My family will be rooting for me and his family will be rooting for him," Colon said. "From there on, I have no idea."
Paul C. Smith is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.