Tigers adding Santos, but waiting on Martinez
What they don’t know yet, but will decide later today, is whether Martinez will be out long enough to justify a stint on the disabled list. Until they determine that, they’re keeping the back half of their roster move open until sometime before first pitch.
Martinez aggravated a right groin injury in his first plate appearance Monday against the Mariners and was lifted for a pinch-runner. He was hobbled enough that manager Jim Leyland already planned on not using him at catcher for at least the next few days, instead starting him at his usual spot as Detroit’s designated hitter.
After Monday’s setback, the question now is whether Martinez can play at all for a while. Either way, though, the Tigers are down a catcher, which led them to purchase Santos’ contract from Triple-A Toledo.
The Tigers gained roster flexibility by having Martinez simultaneously serve as their primary designated hitter and second catcher, but they also put themselves in a position where they can’t go long without him. After Avila and Martinez, the next catcher on the depth chart was utilityman Don Kelly, who added catching duties to his resume this spring in case Detroit had an injury during a game or needed to make some late-game switches.
Under no circumstances, though, was Kelly seen as more than an insurance measure. That’s why the Tigers signed Santos to a minor-league contract over the winter. The soon-to-be 30-year-old shared catching duties with the Mets in 2009, batting .260 with 14 doubles, seven home runs and 40 RBIs in 96 games before suffering an injury-shortened 2010 season.
Santos missed most of Spring Training with a broken toe, but returned to catching duties last week at Triple-A Toledo, where he went 6-for-14 with four RBIs in four games.
If Martinez ends up going on the disabled list, the Tigers will have some juggling to do with their lineup to replace the hitter they signed to bat behind MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera.
Martinez had shown strong signs in recent days of climbing out of a slow start. His second-inning single Monday was his fifth hit in 10 at-bats since Saturday, and it raised his average to .250 to go with two home runs and nine RBIs. Earlier in the at-bat, though, he had aggravated his groin strain moving on a pitch he took from Mariners starter Jason Vargas.
Martinez jogged gingerly to first, then advanced slowly to second on Brennan Boesch’s single. That was enough for manager Jim Leyland to lift him for pinch-runner Casper Wells.
After the game, Martinez hoped he might be able to return in a few days. But Leyland, who had taken a risk by putting him back in the lineup so soon after he originally strained his groin Saturday, was already plotting some sort of roster move.
“I’m sure we’re going to have to do something,” Leyland said.
Martinez isn’t likely to play at all for the next few days, which might actually provide a small silver lining if it allows Magglio Ordonez to ease back into the lineup at DH and limit the wear and tear on his surgically repaired right ankle.