FORT MYERS, Fla. - Pedro Martinez was a strange sight in the Boston Red Sox clubhouse Thursday - more muscular and, for a change, an early arrival at spring training.
Then he took the field and looked like the same old Pedro. He threw smoothly and showed no sign of the worst injury of his brilliant career.
"I haven't gassed it up yet, but I've been feeling really good," Martinez said.
Credit an off-season program in his native Dominican Republic in which he lifted weights regularly for the first time. He said he took just seven days off and spent so much time in the gym that he sometimes didn't get to his boat, where he listened to music, until 10 p.m.
Attribute it to the empty feeling he felt when a shoulder injury limited him to career lows of 18 games and seven wins last season, none in the last four months.
Whatever the reason, the three-time Cy Young Award winner is serious about resuming his status as baseball's best pitcher.
"He's done everything he could in the off-season to set himself up for a good season, to set himself up for 32, 33 starts," manager Joe Kerrigan said. "He looks a lot stronger than at any point that I've seen him in the last 10 years."
Standing bare-chested by his locker the day before pitchers and catchers were due to report, the difference in the 30-year-old Martinez was obvious Thursday.
His chest was beefier, his biceps more defined. He hopes the extra strength and conditioning will keep him off the disabled list for the first time in four seasons.
"We're on the same workout program, huh?" 6-foot-6 Derek Lowe said as he passed by, hoping his own bulked-up physique will ease his transition from reliever to starter.
Martinez is only 5-foot-11 but he reported at about 190 pounds, 12 pounds heavier.
"When I saw my arms getting so big I was like, "Wow, it looks good,"' he said with a smile. "But I don't know, is it going to be heavier to bring it up to throw the curveball?"
Martinez also gained weight before last year's spring training but lost much of it. He didn't feel comfortable at any time last season.
"I'm not a small man anymore," he said. "Hopefully, I'll keep most of the weight."
He's already played long toss twice after arriving Tuesday and plans to pitch from a mound Saturday at the team's first workout. He missed the opening practice the last two years when he spent extra time back home.
"I gave the team my word that I was going to be in early, that I was going to let them check everything that I was doing," Martinez said. "I wanted to come here being healthy."
He also avoided past whispers that he was setting a poor example by arriving after the voluntary reporting date.
"That's very important, especially for the young guys. It's going to make everybody work harder," first baseman Brian Daubach said.
The Red Sox struggled last season after injuries hit Martinez, shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and catcher Jason Varitek.
Boston was in first place in the AL East on June 27, when Martinez went on the disabled list. The Red Sox were in contention when he returned Aug. 26, but he was not the same pitcher who was 7-1 with a 1.44 ERA on Memorial Day.
The Red Sox were just 17-26 in their last 43 games, and Martinez made his last start Sept. 7, lasting three innings against the New York Yankees.
He announced Sept. 18 that he wouldn't pitch again because of shoulder inflammation, ending his season at 7-3 with a 2.39 ERA.
Before then, Boston general manager Dan Duquette said Martinez might be healthy enough to pitch, a statement that upset his ace.
"We had a meeting. He apologized," Martinez said. "We get along really well. Dan has always been a nice person to me and a good GM. I respect him a lot."
Duquette may lose his job once the sale of the Red Sox to a group headed by John Henry is finalized. Martinez figures to be around much longer.
"My pitches are there, especially the fastball," he said. "I'm looking forward to putting up more numbers and maintain my level, not be just one more player on the pile."
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