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Better Late Than Never: Martinez Is Whom Boston Needed

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On August 21, 2006, JD Martinez spent his 19th birthday at Fenway Park watching North America’s greatest sports rivalry. His sister Mayra’s present to him was seats at the game that she got from then-Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell, whose family she worked with. 12 years later, Martinez finds himself at the Fens once again, but this time he’ll be on the field.

Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski officially introduced right fielder/designated hitter Martinez this morning at Boston’s Spring Training compound in Fort Myers, Florida, one week after the now-30-year-old agreed to a five-year, $110 million contract. Funny enough, Martinez’ new manager was Boston’s starting shortstop that day in 2006, Alex Cora.

“Football has Monday night; they say Fenway is like Monday Night Football every night,” said Martinez at the introductory presser. “To play in front of fans this passionate and who love the game as much as I do is exciting.”

Though widely expected from fans and media alike, it seemed at points like an agreement would never be reached. Both sides made the MLB universe sweat it out through rampant negotiations that lasted almost all winter, but it worked out it in the end. It’s a deal the Red Sox needed to make and passing Martinez up would have been a gargantuan mistake.

A drastic decrease in home run output in 2017 made it evident that the Red Sox needed a new big bat. Arch rival New York acquiring reigning home run king Giancarlo Stanton from Miami all but forced Dombrowski’s hand, and though it took until after Spring Training began, he did not disappoint and proved that the Red Sox aren’t messing around either.

Splitting 2017 between Detroit and Arizona, Martinez is coming off the finest season of his career, finishing third in the MLB behind Stanton and Aaron Judge with 45 homers alongside a .303 AVG, 104 RBI and a 1.066 OPS. Reestablishing himself as an elite threat after an elbow injury derailed him in 2016, Martinez is tasked with bringing Boston’s trademark power back to life after it went MIA in the team’s first season without David Ortiz in 14 years.

The stellar pitching of Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz was enough to make up for the outage, even with David Price being lost for more than half the season and Rick Porcello suffering from the proverbial Cy Young hangover. However, the Red Sox can’t afford to rely on pitching alone now that the only team they will contend for the AL East with has Stanton, Judge and Gary Sanchez, who hit a combined 137 homers in 2017, in one lineup. After swatting 45 of his own between the Tigers and D-Backs, Martinez should have no issue fitting in in the hitter-friendly confines of Fenway.

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Martinez was all smiles on Monday as he finally got to put on his Red Sox jersey. (USA Today)

The newest Red Sock isn’t coming to America’s Most Beloved Ballpark to lead the MLB in homers, but rather to put some badly needed oomph back into the Red Sox lineup, which should take pressure off key players like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts and youngbloods Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers.

Well-rounded production from an entire team is never a bad thing and it’s what Boston relied on last season, but it’s not bad either to have a big bat to lean on when the game is on the line. For 14 years that guy for Boston was Big Papi, and the team hopes the man known as Julio Daniel can help fill that void to allow other players a chance to bounce back.

The signing does create a bit of a logjam for rookie manager Cora. Rather than pursue Eric Hosmer, Boston resigned 1B Mitch Moreland for two years. But, according to Boston’s MLB.com reporter Ian Browne, Hanley Ramirez will be Boston’s primary first baseman this season after spending 2017 at DH. If this is true, then Moreland’s resigning is something of a head-scratcher. Why resign the lefty to a two-year, $13 million deal  if the plan was to make Hanley the guy all along?

However, sending Hanley back to the infield is a wise move for Cora. Ramirez performed very well at first base in 2016, his debut year at the position,  playing solid defense while smacking 30 homers and 111 RBI. Moving Ramirez back to first gives him the opportunity to rediscover that magic after shoulder injuries plagued him last year, limiting him to 62 RBI. And, more importantly, it will allow Martinez to be the sole DH, which is the only place he fits right now.

The odds of the team sending Martinez to his natural right field aren’t high at all. Pesky’s corner of the outfield at Fenway is going to be owned by Mookie for a long time to come and Boston isn’t likely to destruct the other two-thirds of its own version of the Killer B’s to make room. Betts, 2017 Rookie of the Year runner-up Benintendi and defensive wizard Jackie Bradley Jr. combine to form one of baseball’s best outfields, there’s simply no room for Martinez there.

There’s a chance that Martinez’ numbers could drop a bit as he adjusts to being a full time DH, but his impact potential is still incredibly high. He gives the Red Sox another proven bat that can hit for both power and contact and will fit nicely in the order around Bogaerts and Betts. For a team that already has one of baseball’s best rotations (Sale, Price, Pomeranz, Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez), the addition of Martinez makes the sky the limit in Beantown.

Stanton to the Yankees may have been this offseason’s biggest move, but Martinez’ signing proves that Boston is not intent on being overshadowed by its storied foes. After The Rivalry lay dormant for the better part of 10 years, Yankees- Red Sox is guaranteed to be the game to watch every time these teams meet this season.

American League

Indians Activate Francisco Lindor, DFA Hanley Ramirez

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The Cleveland Indians have activated star shortstop Francisco Lindor from the injured list on Saturday.

In a corresponding move, the Indians have designated veteran Hanley Ramirez for assignment to create the necessary roster spot for the return of Lindor.

Ramirez, 35, appeared in 16 games this season for Cleveland, posting a slash line of .184/.298/.327 with two home runs.

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American League

Red Sox Place Nathan Eovaldi On 10-Day IL

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The Boston Red Sox have placed starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi on the 10-day injured list due to a loose body in his elbow, according to MassLive.com’s Crhsi Cotillo.

In a corresponding move, left hander Bobby Poyner will take Eovaldi’s spot on the roster and the move is retroactive to April 18th.

The struggling Red Sox will have to move forward without Eovaldi, who missed around 2 months last season following arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body, for the time being.

Eovaldi has started 4 games for Boston this season, going 0-0 and posting a 6.00 ERA in that span.

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American League

Red Sox Call Up Top Prospect Chavis

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Top Red Sox prospect Michael Chavis was recalled for the first time on Friday.

With two infielders being placed on the DL and desperate for any kind of spark they can get, the Boston Red Sox called up their top prospect Michael Chavis (MLB no. 75) from Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday.

Dustin Pedroia and Eduardo Nunez were both placed on the disabled list this week with knee and back injuries, respectively. And with super utility man Brock Holt out as well with an eye injury, Boston’s infield has become quite depleted in a hurry. Infielder Tzu-Wei Lin was recalled as well as the stumbling Red Sox open up a three game set in Tampa with a Good Friday matchup.

Boston hasn’t yet announced if Chavis will be in the lineup tonight, but the team is evidently hoping that the presence of the 23-year-old can provide some kind of a spark. Boston has struggled considerably so far in the young season and is coming off consecutive embarrassing losses to arch-rival New York. At 6-13, the defending World Series champs are dead last in the AL East.

Chavis, on the other hand, has risen through Boston’s minor league system quickly despite a setback last season. A PED suspension cost him half of 2018 after he was busted for Turinabol, an anabolic-androgenic steroid. He denied knowingly taking any banned substance but played well enough after his return to be promoted from Double-A to Triple-A.

Can Chavis provide a boost for the struggling Sox and help them shake off their World Series hangover?

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