Tigers call up Martinez, DL Putkonen
The Tigers bench is back to full strength, now with a little bit more power on it. The team purchased the contract of outfielder
/first baseman J.D. Martinez on Monday, two days after the former Astro hit four home runs in a doubleheader for Triple-A Toledo to get to 10 homers on the year.
Martinez takes the spot of right-handed reliever Luke Putkonen, placed on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Tigers transferred Andy Dirks from the 15-day to 60-day DL, a procedural move since Dirks isn’t expected back until June after undergoing back surgery in March.
Martinez got off to a scorching start with the Mud Hens after signing a minor-league deal late in Spring Training. The 26-year-old South Florida native spent parts of three seasons with the Houston Astros, batting .251 with 24 homers and 126 RBIs in 252 games, before the Astros released him March 22. The Tigers, who had trade interest in him last winter, had him in their minor-league camp two days later, hoping to add a power bat and insurance in the outfield.
To say they expected this kind of start might have been a little much. He’s 20-for-65 (.308) with half of his hits leaving the yard. He put up a three-homer game over seven innings for the Hens in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday at Columbus, then added another homer in his first at-bat of the nightcap.
On a team that has had Don Kelly as its primary pinch-hitter for the first three weeks of the season, the opportunity to add a power bat to the ranks won out. It’s a priority change that has become more important since Opening Day, when Tyler Collins won the last bench spot out of Spring Training as a left-handed hitting complement to left fielder Rajai Davis. Once Davis got off to a hot start, playing time for Collins dwindled until he was optioned to Toledo on Friday for relief help.
Ezequiel Carrera, who made a big impression on Tigers coaches in Spring Training and is batting .364 (24-for-66) at Toledo, was an equally strong candidate, but has just seven extra-base hits. Collins, who went 2-for-14 in his first-ever Major League stint, could have been recalled to take the place of a player on the DL, but the Tigers want him getting more regular playing time.
Putkonen has pitched just twice all season, most recently last Friday, when he gave up seven runs on five hits over two innings against the Angels. His move to the DL means Justin Miller, called up Friday as an extra reliever for depth, is staying put.