Pedro Martínez MLB Career and Early Life

Small in size but with a rocket for a right arm and pinpoint control, Pedro Martinez emerged from the Dominican Republic in the late 1980s to become the most dominant pitcher of his era and one of the greatest pitchers of all time.

He won three Cy Young awards in 1997, 1999 and 2000 – and finished second for the Cy Young in 1998 and 2002. His position in the starting rotation also played a big role in the Boston Red Sox winning the 2004 World Series, the team’s first championship since 1918.

Voters elected Martinez, who retired in 2009, into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015.

Pedro Martinez’s Early Life

Born Oct. 25, 1971, in a poor suburb of Santo Domingo, Martinez grew up as the fifth of six children, living in a house with dirt floors and a tin roof. Martinez had little financial support, but developed a drive to achieve at a young age. This included teaching himself how to pitch.

Without money to buy baseballs, Martinez taught himself to pitch using rolled up socks, his sister’s doll heads, and his brother’s school books, according to the Pedro Martinez website. The site added: “He practiced relentlessly, working on the precision of his skills. He sought the wisdom and advice of those with anything to teach him.”

His older brother, Ramon, also developed as a strong pitcher. The Los Angeles Dodgers eventually drafted Ramon and he debuted with the big club in 1988. That same year, the Dodgers also drafted Pedro.

Early Years With Dodgers

Martinez got his start in professional baseball with Tigres del Licey in Santo Domingo during the winter league in 1989 after signing with the Dodgers in 1988. When the Dodgers signed Martinez, he weighed 150 pounds and stood at 5 feet 11 inches.

After winter ball, he joined the minor league Great Falls Dodgers. While there, he learned a changeup that would become a devastating part of his pitching arsenal. He made his debut with the Dodgers on Sept. 24, 1992, pitching two scoreless innings of relief against the Cincinnati Reds in Dodgers Stadium. He was 20 years old.

Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda used Martinez out of the bullpen, reportedly due to his smaller size. Lasorda apparently feared he could not hold up over multiple innings as a starter. In his first full season in 1993, Martinez struck out 119 batters in 107 innings and had a 2.61 ERA as a setup man for closer Jim Gott (Martinez picked up two saves himself).

Tommy Lasorda MLB Career and Early Life

On Nov. 19, 1993, in a move that would come to haunt Dodgers fans, Los Angeles traded Martinez to the Montreal Expos for second baseman Delino DeShields. It’s interesting to note that Ramon Martinez, then a starting pitcher for the Dodgers, insisted through this entire time that his little brother was a better pitcher than him. His little brother was about to prove him right.

The Montreal Expos Years

At Montreal, Pedro Martinez became the Pedro Martinez that fans loved, and batters feared. After years of difficulty controlling his fastball, Martinez finally got it under control with the Expos. Coupling it with change-up, Martinez started to become all-but unhittable.

On June 3, 1995, Martinez retired the first 27 batters he faced against the San Diego Padres, eventually giving up a hit in the 10th. The next season, in 1996, he became an All-Star for the first of eight times. In 1997, he won his first Cy Young.

His 1997 numbers still make people do a double-take. He struck out 305 batters in 241 ⅓ innings. He also had an ERA of 1.90. No one had struck out more than 300 batters with a sub-2.00 ERA since Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators in 1912.

But after the 1997 season, the Expos traded Martinez to the Boston Red Sox. He was about to become a free agent, and the Expos knew they could not afford him. They wanted something for him. They got Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr.

The Boston Red Sox Years

Even casual baseball fans know what happened next. Now playing for one of the most storied franchises in the game, Martinez picked up where he left off in Montreal, winning Cy Young awards in 1999 and 2000 and finishing second in 1998 and 2002. He struck out more than 200 batters in all but one season with Boston.

He also helped lead Boston to the World Series championship in 2004. Martinez pitched seven scoreless innings on the way to earning the Game 3 victory. The Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals to win the series.

Statistically, all Martinez’s seasons in Boston are astonishing (other than an injury-plagued 2001). One of his best was the 2000 season when he finished with an 18-6 record, a 1.74 ERA and 284 strikeouts.

Martinez left the Red Sox in 2005 as free agent, moving to the New York Mets. After one great season in 2005, injuries began to wear him down. After leaving New York for one season in Philadelphia in 2009, Martinez decided to retire.

His run in the late 1990s and early 2000s remains one of the greatest ever, putting him in the same category as the best pitchers in league history. Since retirement, he has worked as an analyst for MLB Network.

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