“I would like to finish my career here”

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Entering his final year under contract with the Red Sox, JD Martinez said Monday he would like to spend the rest of his career in Boston.

“I would love that,” he said. “I expressed where I am with the team and I would like to end my career here. It’s not mine, really.

Martinez, 34, is in the final year of a five-year, $110 million contract he signed with former Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

Since joining the Sox, Martinez has hit .297 with 114 homers and a .917 OPS, which ranks fifth among all players with at least 2,000 plate appearances during that span. Only Juan Soto, Mookie Betts, Bryce Harper and Freddie Freeman have done better.

Martinez could have opted out of his contract multiple times, but opted to stay in Boston.

“I think I made the right decision and I’m delighted to be here,” he said. “I think this team has a chance to win again and that’s what I want to do – I want to win.”

He said he would like to stay in Boston and would be open to expansion talks during spring training.

“I’m fine anyway,” he said. “My mindset is I’m going to be a free agent…I mean, would we be welcome (an extension)? Yeah, I’ve always welcomed it — my door’s open, my phone’s always been open But I think once the season starts, it’s one of those things where I’m going to want to be locked in.

Adding the universal designated hitter will create better opportunities for Martinez in the later years of his career.

“I think it’s good for baseball all around,” he said. “Obviously I’m biased, but I said it…I think now it’s going to level the playing field for pitchers, batters, everybody. Now you will be able to judge a batter, judge a pitcher strictly on his numbers and not on the league he plays in.

Martinez noticed that free agent DH Nelson Cruz had just been guaranteed $15 million by the Nationals at age 42.

“I tell him every time I see him, ‘Nelson, you’re my hero,'” Martinez said. “It’s hard. It’s hard on your body. It’s hard on your time. You know, one thing you can never get back in life is time. So it’s one of those things I’d like to stay in. Obviously I’m not ready yet, but playing until I’m 40 is kind of crazy.
“You know, everyone likes to talk about Tom Brady and he’s the best and he’s the GOAT, but what Nelson is doing right now is, I think, very impressive as well.”

PITCHERS Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck are both lying this spring, manager Alex Cora told reporters.

But baseball’s chief officer Chaim Bloom said he doesn’t expect Whitlock to fit into a typical starting pitcher mold, implying instead that he could be in a role of caster starting from the new era which adapts according to its health and its effectiveness.

“If we’re trying to adapt someone’s cookie-cutter style to some sort of abstract role, we’re doing them a disservice,” he said. “So the way we look at it right now, especially with what he’s been through medically, in terms of workload last year, we want to give him a chance to pitch more innings for us. , just to do it in the right way, do it responsibly, don’t focus too much on what we call the role, but give it a chance to impact us as much as possible in a way that takes care of him.

Whitlock, a Yankees Rule 5 pick last year, pitched 73 1/3 innings with a 1.96 ERA for the Sox last year. He was also dominant in the playoffs, when it was debated whether or not he would start in 2022.

Houck pitched 69 innings with a 3.52 ERA while being a back and forth option with Triple-A Worcester throughout the season. Starting in 2022, MLB capped the number of times a player can be optioned in a single season (five).

AFTER THE the toughest year of his career, Matt Barnes arrived at Red Sox camp this spring with renewed hope.

When asked if he thought it was realistic for him to be the closest after finishing the season with a 6.48 ERA in the second half and being dropped from the original playoff roster, Barnes responded with an emphatic “yes.”

He said he may have put too much pressure on himself to be the closest last year, but he was very proud of the job.

“It was a little crazy,” he said. “Obviously, the first part of the season went very well. I think in the second half I went through a period where I was in a lot of games, I was kind of tired, and when you get tired you start trying to recreate what you had before. And then you sort of create bad habits.

“So obviously creating bad habits I didn’t perform well, then I got COVID, then I sat for 10 days, two weeks, couldn’t play in the game, I came back, and then we only have a few weeks until the playoffs.

Barnes had an electric first half in which he had a 2.61 ERA with 19 saves and was named an All-Star for the first time in his career. The Sox signed him to a two-year contract extension worth at least $18.75 million before he collapsed in the second half.

“It was hard to go from where I was to not even making the playoff roster originally,” he said. “But I think in everything we do, you can’t improve unless you go through tough times. You don’t improve by being excellent all the time. You don’t learn anything that way.

SOME PLAYERS who are not vaccinated could miss games this year.

If the laws in Canada hold up, the Sox could not use their unvaccinated players for games in Toronto. While the rules may change, Bloom said, “it goes without saying that anything that might keep our players out on the field will be of concern to us. We have been and continue to be strong advocates for vaccination.

JAMES GAUCHER Paxton, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Sox this year, was seen pitching on Monday but remains a long way from a comeback after undergoing Tommy John surgery last April.

“Based on the calendar, we’re looking at the second half of the year more,” Bloom said. “But nothing has changed with that. Really happy with that.

RAFAEL DEVERS remains unsigned as he enters the season eligible for salary arbitration. He will be eligible for arbitration again in 2023 before he can become a free agent.

“Nothing has changed with how we feel about him,” Bloom said. “He is a key player for us and we hope he will be here for a long time.”

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