Red Sox: J.D. Martinez says he can ignore the pressure of playing in Boston

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 06: J.D. Martinez /

Boston Red Sox outfielder/designated hitter J.D. Martinez will be tested by playing in Boston. Can he handle the pressure of a large market?

J.D. Martinez had an uneventful debut in a Boston Red Sox uniform, going 0-for-2 with a pair of flyouts. Thus, the pressure to live up to his $110 million deal begins to build.

Ok, not really. This is Grapefruit League action, not a pennant race. Martinez is simply looking to find his comfort zone at the plate and prepare for the upcoming season. He’s still in catch-up mode following a delayed start to camp due to ongoing free agency negotiations. The results don’t matter at this point. His goal is to get himself ready for when they do.

After his first game of the spring, Martinez let reporters know that he’s feeling good. He stepped to the plate with straightforward plan – see the ball, hit the ball. If that ball happened to be caught by an outfielder, so be it. He’s not worried about making outs in spring training so long as he’s getting a good swing on the ball.

The pressure to produce isn’t even on his radar yet, but it will be. The intense media scrutiny and passionate fan base in Boston puts players under a microscope. Winning isn’t a goal to strive for, it’s an expectation. Martinez hasn’t had to deal with an atmosphere quite like this in previous stops through Houston, Detroit and Arizona.

Boston will test Martinez in ways he’s never experienced in his baseball career. Some players find the intensity to be suffocating. Others thrive in it. Where Martinez falls on that spectrum remains to be seen but he doesn’t appear to be worried about it.

"“To me, I feel like you guys have the expectations, the fans and the media,” said Martinez, per WEEI’s John Tomase. “I’m just going to go out there and play my game and do what I’ve been doing the last four or five years. As far as the pressure and stuff goes, just try and go out there and try to play my game. Obviously ignore it. Playing in Boston, it’s a big market and there’s going to be a lot more but I think it will be a good test of handling it.”"

Ignore the pressure. Block out the boo-birds that flock to Fenway during a slump, brush off the media relentlessly hounding you for answers. Easier said than done.

Carl Crawford probably thought he could ignore the pressure too. Or perhaps he was too blinded by dollar signs to care. Ditto for Pablo Sandoval, Edgar Renteria and every other high-priced free agent who faltered with the Red Sox.

Boston embraces its stars when things are going well but the city will let you hear about it during the tough times. Even the great David Ortiz would get an earful from the fans and media when he was struggling.

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Maybe Martinez has the mindset to handle the pressure. It may even push him to another level. If anyone would know if he’s capable of adapting to this environment, it’s Dave Dombrowski. The Red Sox president of baseball operations brought Martinez to Detroit when he served as general manager for the Tigers. Dombrowski saw firsthand as Martinez salvaged a floundering career to blossom into one of the game’s most feared sluggers. His familiarity with Martinez must have been a factor in Dombrowski locking in on him as his top free agent target. Clearly, Dombrowski must believe Martinez can handle Boston.

Of course, Dombrowski was also familiar with David Price from their days together in Detroit. While Price hasn’t quite lived up to his ace reputation in Boston, his production when healthy would hardly deem him as a bust. It’s his clashes with the media and overall bristly demeanor that have called his ability to handle the pressures of this city into question.

Martinez may seem to have the right attitude to handle Boston but we won’t know until he’s thrown into the fire.

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Boston will challenge Martinez in an effort to bring out the best in him. We shouldn’t assume that he’ll crack under pressure but in order to avoid succumbing to it he must face that challenge head on. If his plan is to try to ignore it hoping it will eventually go away, it’s going to be a long season for Martinez.