March 6th, 2013
Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez had only one plate appearance in his return to game action Wednesday against the Blue Jays, but said afterwards the move was a precaution due to minor back tightness that bothers him when he swings right-handed.
The switch-hitter started Wednesday’s game against Jays right-hander Brandon Morrow and drew a first-inning walk. He was lifted for pinch-hitter Alex Avila in the third inning once Toronto replaced Morrow with lefty Brett Cecil.
Martinez was in the dugout when the change was made, so it clearly wasn’t planned ahead of time. Usually, Martinez goes to the batting cages between his at-bats to stay loose.
Once the inning ended, Martinez walked back to the Tigers clubhouse on his own, carrying his own gear and bats.
“It’s just been a little sore in my back, a little uncomfortable to swing on the right side,” Martinez said. “It’s just a couple days. It’s a little tough. I’ve been out for a year and I’ve been out there every day swinging, swinging, swinging.
“It’s nothing to worry about. I guess you can call it like maintenance.”
Martinez said the issue is not related to his recovery from left knee surgery a year ago. His big test for the knee was his swing against right-handed pitchers, since it put more weight on his left leg.
“Honestly, I’m not even worried about the knee anymore,” Martinez said. “The biggest challenge for me was to hit left-handed. … I’m swinging the bat pretty normal, like I would during the season.”
Martinez expects to play Thursday night against the Braves, who will start right-hander Julio Teheran. The Tigers aren’t scheduled to see a lefty starter until Saturday, when they’ll face Jays southpaw Ricky Romero in Dunedin.
“I’m going to go out there tomorrow and keep playing,” Martinez said.
Wednesday marked Martinez’s first game since last Friday, when he left after two at-bats against the Mets. Manager Jim Leyland said at the time that resting Martinez the last four days was planned, a pattern of gearing him up and then backing him off.
As promised, closer candidate Bruce Rondon and pitching coach Jeff Jones spent a good chunk of Wednesday morning’s batting practice in the bullpen, working on his delivery. They worked a little on his release point, and they worked some on getting his legs involved in his delivery again. Asked how it went, Jeff Jones tried to emphasize not what he saw, but how Rondon felt about it.
“He felt good about what he was doing,” Jones said.
Whether that makes a difference won’t be known until Friday, when he’s scheduled to make his next game appearance against the Mets at Joker Marchant Stadium. Manager Jim Leyland called it “a little adjustment,” but said he didn’t know how much of a difference it might be.
“I think the best way to put it is I think this kid is potentially a fantastic closing prospect,” Leyland said. “Is he ready for that? I can’t answer that. I don’t want to shed any negative light on the Rondon situation, because there is none to be shed. I think this kid has all the equipment. The question is going to become, I think, at some point: Is he ready? Plain and simple. And if he’s not ready, the Detroit Tigers will absolutely be fine. I have total confidence in the guys we’ve got. We’ve got plenty of equipment out there. We may maneuver it a little bit different. It’ll be a second-guesser’s haven and all that. But that’s OK. In our profession, we’re used to that. That just goes with the territory.”
Leyland tried to downplay some of the sense of panic about their closing situation, saying he’ll be comfortable with whatever they end up doing with their bullpen. But he reiterated it would be easier to have a set closer than a bullpen by committee.
At this point, though, he isn’t sure how it’s going to end up.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t know,” Leyland said. “But we’ll have somebody. And who knows, it might be Bruce Rondon.”
Leyland also revised his remarks a bit on Rick Porcello as a potential closer.
“I don’t think it’s a far-out idea,” Leyland said. “I just think it’s highly unlikely.”
Victor Martinez is back in the Tigers lineup as promised. He moves up to the third spot in the order with Miguel Cabrera off at the World Baseball Classic. Danny Worth gets the start at third base. Jeff Kobernus is back at second. No Brennan Boesch yet.
- Austin Jackson, CF
- Torii Hunter, RF
- Victor Martinez, DH
- Prince Fielder, 1B
- Andy Dirks, LF
- Jhonny Peralta, SS
- Jeff Kobernus, 2B
- Danny Worth, 3B
- Bryan Holaday, C
P: Justin Verlander, Casey Crosby, Al Alburquerque, Phil Coke, Darin Downs, Luis Marte
- Anthony Gose, CF
- Rajai Davis, LF
- Maicer Izturis, 2B
- Adam Lind, 1B
- Andy LaRoche, 3B
- Ryan Langerhans, RF
- Luis Jimenez, DH
- Josh Thole, C
- Lance Zawadzki, SS
P: Brandon Morrow, Aaron Loup, Brett Cecil, Ramon Ortiz, David Bush, Tommy Hottovy, Michael Schwimer
The first thing I thought when the Carlos Marmol trade rumor popped up yesterday was that this sounds familiar — maybe not the Marmol part, but the Tigers-Cubs part. Baseball has almost as many Chicago-Detroit connections scheduled as the airlines do. The second thing is that it seems awfully early for a Tigers-Cubs trade rumor. But looking back, they’ve popped up all over the calendar.
In the summer of 2009, it was Milton Bradley.
After 2009, it was Curtis Granderson speculated as a possibility for his hometown Cubs for then-prospect Starlin Castro (which the Cubs would never do) or some other prospect package.
Two years ago, it was Aramis Ramirez, first as a Cub and later as a free agent.
Last winter, when the Tigers had an open rotation spot, it was Matt Garza, whom the Cubs would supposedly deal to Detroit for Jacob Turner and Rick Porcello, which defeated the purpose of filling the open rotation spot. The Tigers asserted they would not trade Turner for Garza straight up.
Last July, when the Tigers needed a second baseman, it was Darwin Barney. Then later that month, it was Alfonso Soriano, whom the Tigers were reportedly working to acquire at the deadline. Then it was Reed Johnson, who ended up going to the Braves instead.
This winter, it was Soriano again. Then it was the three-team deal for Porcello that would get J.J. Hardy from the Orioles to the Tigers, and maybe the Cubs would force them to take Soriano too while they were at it.
Now, just as the Tigers reportedly begin weighing the idea of trading for a closer, it’s Marmol, whom the Tigers will take a good, hard look according to one report out of Chicago, but whom the Tigers haven’t yet discussed with Chicago according to another report.
The Tigers have pulled off one trade with the Cubs in this stretch. They acquired Jeff Baker for a player to be named later, after reportedly trying for Soriano, then for Reed Johnson.
I’m not saying a Carlos Marmol trade would never happen. In fact, the way the Tigers do their scouting work, it wouldn’t surprise me if they did have a scout in Spring Training take a look at Marmol, though his walk rate was crazy high last season. Nor am I saying that none of these other rumors were ever close to happening.
Still, three of the four highest-paid Cubs this year (Soriano, Garza, Marmol) have been tied in trade rumors with the Tigers at some point in the last 15 months. The fourth is the one who has been a Tiger, and that’s Edwin Jackson. He was traded from Detroit to Arizona in the same three-team deal that included Granderson, which would bring us full circle if not for that Milton Bradley rumor.