Pedro Martinez was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday against his will, the biggest blow to a Boston Red Sox team losing games and players at an alarming rate.
The decision wasn't unanimous, with the AL's best pitcher saying he could take his regular turn Saturday against the Chicago White Sox despite side and shoulder problems.
But management preferred the cautious approach when the health of their ace was involved. The move was retroactive to Monday, making Martinez eligible to be activated July 11, the day of the All-Star game.
"He says he's OK to pitch on Saturday so it's basically my decision to put him on the disabled list," manager Jimy Williams said. "I think it's the right decision. He doesn't. That's all right."
Martinez hasn't been his dominating self in his last four starts since missing a turn with a strained oblique muscle in his right side. He was 8-2 with a 1.05 ERA before that stretch but was 9-3 with a 1.44 ERA after Sunday's 6-5, 13-inning loss in Toronto. He still leads the majors in ERA and the AL with 140 strikeouts but has allowed six homers in his last two starts after giving up just three all season.
"I had tightness on Sunday in the shoulder but I'm fine now," Martinez said.
But Scott Hatteberg, who caught Martinez in his last start, isn't so sure.
"He was hurt. To what extent, I don't know," Hatteberg said before Boston took a five-game losing streak into Thursday night's game with Baltimore. "He had been bothered by his side."
The Red Sox recalled left-handed reliever Sang Lee from Pawtucket of the International League to take Martinez's roster spot.
Martinez joins Troy O'Leary and Trot Nixon, two-thirds of Boston's regular outfield, and starting pitcher Jeff Fassero on the disabled list. And in Tuesday's opener of the Baltimore series, two other outfielders were sidelined Darren Lewis with a hamstring injury and Carl Everett after undergoing a root-canal procedure.
But Martinez is more important than any of them in Boston's attempt to reach the playoffs.
"He's a gamer and he wants to be out there," reliever Rod Beck said. "Games now are as important as games later but later on it's crunch time and that's when you want to have your aces going."
Martinez was the unanimous winner of the AL Cy Young award last year when he went 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA. But he had injury problems in the second half of the season.
He struck out five of the six batters he faced in the All-Star game at Fenway Park but was placed on the 15-day disabled list 11 days later with a sore right shoulder. He returned to action Aug. 3. He also hurt his upper back in the opener of the AL division series against Cleveland but returned in the decisive fifth game to pitch six hitless innings of relief as the Red Sox won the series.
The Red Sox put him on the disabled list Thursday, hoping to avoid problems later in the year.
"I think it's a good decision," said Pedro's brother, Ramon, another key to Boston's rotation. "He's kind of disappointed but from what I know of Pedro this time of year he struggles, so now is a good time."
Beck figures the Red Sox will be OK until their ace returns.
"We've got enough to keep it together for a while," he said. "Pedro's better than most guys when he's 80 percent (healthy). I don't know if he's 80 percent."
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