J.D. Martinez really wasn’t supposed to be in the Red Sox’ starting lineup for their game against the Rangers at Globe Life Field on Friday night.
After the team arrived in Arlington in the wee hours of the morning on Thursday, Martinez’s head did not hit the pillow of his hotel room bed until about 4 a.m. local time.
Shortly after falling asleep, the 33-year-old awoke four hours later to what he described as “a crazy migraine” that prevented him from going back to bed.
“It’s some muscle or something that tightens up,” he said. “I don’t know why it happens, but it just tightens up and then I get this crazy migraine.”
Even while dealing with the migraine and the neck pain that came along with it, Martinez — with the help of the team’s athletic trainers — started at designated hitter for the Red Sox on Thursday and made it to the eighth inning before more symptoms arose.
“Right before my third at-bat, I was in the cage swinging, getting loose, and it just hit me,” Martinez recalled on Friday. “I was feeling terrible. Everything was so bright… It got to the point where I felt a little dizzy.”
Martinez wound up being pinch-hit for by Christian Arroyo in the eighth inning of Thursday’s loss and was on track to get a day off on Friday. But he started to feel better later on after getting some more work done on his neck, which led to him negotiating with Red Sox manager Alex Cora in order to be in the lineup come game time on Friday.
“I felt a lot better,” Martinez said. “So when I was leaving, Alex was just like, ‘Hey, I’m going to give you tomorrow.’ I was like, ‘No, no, no, no, no. I’ll be fine.’ He was like, ‘No, take a day.’ I’m like, ‘No, I’m in. I’ll be fine. I’ll let you know tomorrow if anything.'”
Martinez woke up Friday morning still experiencing some discomfort, and after receiving more treatment from trainers, he made sure to let Cora know he was good to go.
“In that situation, it’s either you feel OK or you don’t,” Cora said in regards to Martinez. “Physically, he doesn’t need [a day off], so you got to trust him. He came into the office, he told me last night he should be OK. This morning, he texted me right away, ‘I’m good to go.’ And he was good to go.”
The Red Sox benefitted from having Martinez in their lineup on Friday, and the trust between player and manager was a catalyst for that.
“Alex always has a good feel with all that stuff,” said Martinez. “He knows I want to be in there everyday as much as I can.”
In his 25th start of the season on Friday, the Sox slugger broke out of a 2-for-14 rut by going 3-for-4 with a pair of home runs, four RBI, and two runs scored, marking his second multi-homer game of the season already as part of a 6-1 win over the Rangers.
On the 2021 campaign as a whole, Martinez is now slashing an impressive .351/.430/.745 with a league-leading nine home runs and 25 RBI through his first 107 plate appearances of the year.
The fact that Martinez is off to this hot a start is certainly encouraging after the down season he had in 2020, but Cora was hesitant to pin all those struggles last year on the lack of access to video alone.
“I think it’s more about his routine, what he can do,” said Cora. “This is a guy that it’s an all-day process with his swing. He feels better physically. He’s in a better place with his mechanics… Now, he’s in a good place, he’s doing a great job. It’s not only on the field what he’s doing, it’s in the cage, talking to players.”
Cora also implied that Martinez is out to prove that his 2020 was a fluke and he is still indeed one of the best hitters in baseball. One month into the season, and Martinez is doing just that.
“He’s on a mission,” Cora said. “He’s on a mission.”
(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)