Boston Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez is not all that used to playing defense. He is, after all, usually a designated hitter. So maybe that’s why he ran into a bit of trouble by stumbling over a base while heading to the outfield on Sunday.
Martinez’s status was left unclear for Tuesday’s AL wild-card game against the visiting New York Yankees after he sprained his left ankle and was removed from a 7-5 victory over the Washington Nationals in Boston’s regular-season finale.
Because the National League does not use a DH in games played in its stadiums — a rule that could change as soon as next season — Martinez was playing in right field against Washington.
And it was on what should have been a routine trek to that spot, glove in hand for the bottom of the fifth inning, that Martinez, well, put his foot in it, so to speak.
“He stepped on the bag and twisted the ankle,” Boston manager Alex Cora said. “He grinded that inning defensively.”
This was only the seventh game in all of 2021 that Martinez started in right field. He was in the starting lineup as a DH for 113 games and as the left fielder for 28.
Martinez was replaced by pinch hitter José Iglesias in the top of the sixth, and as part of a series of defensive switches to account for that move, Hunter Renfroe shifted from center field to right in the bottom of that inning.
“The guys stepped up. That’s what we do,” Cora said. “Somebody goes down, somebody has to go in and do the job.”
Martinez is a key part of Boston’s lineup. He began Sunday with a .286 average, an AL-leading 42 doubles, 28 homers and 99 RBIs.
As for whether Martinez will be ready to play in Tuesday night’s win-or-go-home game against the rival Yankees at Fenway Park, Cora said Sunday: “I don’t know. We’ll know more later on tomorrow.”