Results tagged ‘ Victor Martinez ’

Ausmus: V-Mart could catch in NL parks

Remember when Victor Martinez was trying on catching gear Thursday and said he was ready to do whatever the Tigers needed or asked? Well, turns out they had asked him about catching.

“I actually called Victor — this must have been January, right after New Year’s — and asked him about catching,” Brad Ausmus said. “He was thrilled about it. He was excited. I asked him if he wanted to come down with pitchers and catchers.

“There is a reason behind it. We play 10 games in National League parks and the first road trip of the season is L.A. and San Diego. We can’t not have Victor play for five straight games. This gives us another option. I wouldn’t want to just ask Victor the first week of the season, ‘Hey, get some catching gear. You might catch on the next road trip.’ So I told him, ‘Listen, I was hoping you would be open to the idea of catching a little bit.’ So when we get to LA and San Diego and we face a tough left-handed pitcher or maybe Alex Avila needs a day or something, whatever the case may be, we can stick Victor behind the plate possibly. Now, I don’t know if it will happen or won’t happen, but it gives us an option.”

Thus, Martinez was behind the plate Friday morning for the first round of bullpen sessions in Tigers camp. He caught Rick Porcello’s session with relative ease.

As mentioned Thursday, Martinez started three games at catcher last season, two of them against the Mets at Citi Field during Interleague Play in August. He was on a hitting tear, and with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder at the corners, the Tigers had nowhere else to put him. He didn’t catch at all that spring, not while he was working back into game shape with surgically repaired knees, but Jim Leyland acknowledged he could end up catching later in the year.

This year, Interleague Play comes much earlier. That plus Martinez’s health over the past year make a start or two in Spring Training a much more sensible option.

The Tigers face five more games in NL parks after that — three in Arizona July 21-23, then two in Pittsburgh Aug. 11-12.

Another option Ausmus confirmed is to play Miguel Cabrera at third for some of those games and move Martinez to first.

“It’s been talked about,” Ausmus said. “Again, there will be some things, we have to see how they play out, but it’s been discussed. I actually even mentioned it to Miggy. You know, Miggy is a team guy and he told me, ‘Listen, I still have two gloves. Whatever you need.’ So at the end of March, if you see Miggy play third for a game, you don’t have to immediately say that [Nick] Castellanos is in trouble or [Steve] Lombardozzi’s in trouble. It might be that we’re setting up to have options for these National League games where we want to keep our big bats in the lineup.”

Cabrera mentioned Wednesday that he brought his third-base glove with him.

V-Mart at catcher? Not likely, Leyland says, but possible

Jim Leyland returned to town Friday afternoon still not sure whether he’ll have catcher Alex Avila available to play Saturday night in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. He also wasn’t sure who might catch if Avila can’t go.

He has not ruled out Victor Martinez.

“That has been thought about, yes,” Leyland said on a Friday conference call.

It’s a possibility the Tigers have kept open all along for the postseason, but for the World Series, not the ALCS. If the Tigers advance, they’ll lose the designated hitter for Games 3-5 in the National League city, either St. Louis or Los Angeles. Martinez, 7-for-18 in this series and 16-for-38 in the postseason, would have to find a position in the field in those games, and he caught three times down the stretch in the regular season without any problems to be prepared.

This is different. Martinez, whose days as even a semi-regular catcher ended with knee surgery last year, could bat in the DH spot in Boston. However, Avila’s absence could leave Leyland deciding whether it’s best to catch Brayan Pena and leave everyone else alone, or catch Martinez, move Miguel Cabrera to DH and play one of his utility infielders at third.

Leyland isn’t ready to take the discussion that far.

“It would be an option, let me put it that way, that you could DH Miggy and catch Victor and then obviously play Santiago or Donnie Kelly at third,” Leyland said. “I don’t think that’s going to happen but it would be an option if Alex were not able to play.”

As for Avila, Leyland said he was still dealing with some soreness in his left knee when the Tigers boarded their team plane for Boston on Friday. They won’t make an evaluation until Saturday.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Leyland said. “I have no idea. I’m hoping Alex Avila can catch. That decision will be way down the road yet.”

Cabrera leads all AL players in All-Star votes

Miguel Cabrera is finally getting the respect he deserves in All-Star balloting. He not only has lapped his competition at third base on the American League ballot, he currently leads all AL players in votes.

The first balloting update, released Monday, shows how much Cabrera’s Triple Crown season in 2012 and record-setting pace in 2013 have vaulted him among the game’s biggest stars. Cabrera has 1,500,165 votes, double that of Baltimore’s Manny Machado among AL third basemen and about 265,000 more than Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano for the AL’s top vote-getter.

Cabrera’s lone All-Star start in his career came in 2010 as an injury replacement for Justin Morneau at first base. He has six other All-Star appearances as a reserve, including the last two seasons as a Tiger.

The only other Tiger in line to start as of Monday’s balloting update is Torii Hunter, third among AL outfielders with 761,937 votes. He holds a slim leads over Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz, while looking up at Angels sensation Mike Trout and Orioles center fielder Adam Jones.

Prince Fielder is at serious risk of losing his starting spot at first base thanks to Chris Davis’ amazing start and a strong showing by Orioles fans at the ballot box. Though Fielder topped the million-vote mark already at 1,059,300, he trails Davis by just under 117,000 votes.

The potential snub could be at shortstop, where Jhonny Peralta’s hot start earned him just a third-place showing behind Texas’ Elvis Andrus and O’s counterpart J.J. Hardy. However, shortstop is shaping up to be one of the tightest races on the AL ballot this year, with about 187,000 votes separating Peralta from Andrus’ leading total.

Omar Infante’s quietly strong season has him ranked fourth among AL second basemen with 417,333 votes. Victor Martinez, despite his slow start, ranks fifth among designated hitters with 340,967 votes, about 675,000 behind Boston’s David Ortiz.

Victor Martinez: “I have no excuses”

Spring Training wasn’t really that long ago, was it?

That’s when Victor Martinez seemed like he hadn’t missed a beat, let alone a season. His timing at the plate appeared fine back then, though he dipped into a slump in the final week of camp. Even when he wasn’t getting hits, he was making solid contact. He ended up batting .253 (19-for-75). The one thing missing was power (three doubles and one home run out of 19 hits), but that wasn’t a particular worry given the time he had missed.

After 66 at-bats over the first three weeks of the regular season, Martinez is batting .167 (11-for-66) .182 (12-for-66 after his hard-hit grounder that hit off M’s shortstop Brendan Ryan Wednesday was changed from an E6 to a single). His one extra-base hit was a double in his three-hit game at Seattle. After making consistent contact all month, he struck out five times in the three-game series against the Angels.

He does not, however, want to hear about a lost season and trying to get his timing back.

“I have no excuses,” Martinez said.

That said, Martinez feels like he has been swinging the bat better than the results would suggest.

“I can’t really control what happens after I hit the ball,” Martinez said. “I feel like I’ve been hitting the ball good.”

He definitely had some well-hit outs on the opening homestand, flying out to the warning track in the home opener and getting robbed of a hit on a line drive to Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner the next day. After going hitless the day after that, he cut open his thumb on the bat rack. He also flew out twice to the left-field warning track in Seattle on Wednesday.

His at-bat with the bases loaded in the ninth inning Sunday suggests he’s still putting good at-bats together. He fouled back three fastballs and worked into a 2-2 count after falling into an 0-2 hole. He couldn’t center one of them to send back up the middle, instead flying out to left.

It’s early, but so far, Martinez is seeing a higher percentage of fastballs than he has in the past, about nine percent over 2011 according to fangraphs. Some of that could simply be a product of the pitchers he’s facing or the early-season cold weather that prompts some pitchers to go to the fastball and try to jam hitters, but some could also be a part of the strategy against him early on.

Make no mistake, the Tigers are going to give Martinez every opportunity to get his timing back this season. Whether he hits for power is almost irrelevant; remember, he drove in 103 runs two years ago with just 12 home runs but 40 doubles. Remember, too, that it doesn’t take much run production to provide an upgrade over what Detroit received from the DH spot last season. Still, a productive Martinez is better than the vast majority of designated hitters in the league, which is all the more reason to give him time to get there.

V-Mart leaves with minor back tightness

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.

Leyland on V-Mart: “We’re backing him off a little bit”

A day after Victor Martinez reportedly winced on a swing Friday against the Mets and left after two at-bats, he was not in the lineup for either Tiger split-squad game and did not take part in batting practice Saturday. He was in the clubhouse at Joker Marchant Stadium all morning, but wasn’t in uniform. However, he was walking around without any noticeable problem, and he had nothing wrapped or iced.

So at this point, other than the swing Friday and the move to get him out of the game, there are no additional signs that anything’s serious. It’s certainly curious, though.

Manager Jim Leyland said in his pregame session that Martinez is fine.

“We’re backing him off a little bit,” Leyland said.

Leyland had said earlier this week that he might have to tell Martinez to take a break. In that sense, it’s not unexpected, but doing it on a split-squad day adds to the curiosity.

As of this morning, Martinez was not on the travel list for Sunday’s game against the Braves at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex, a short drive from his home in the Orlando area.

Tigers pull plug on V-Mart comeback for 2012

You might remember Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand saying a few days ago that Victor Martinez was “basically running out of time” to complete his rehab in time for a chance at coming back this season. That clock has officially run out.

Rand told reporters Friday at Comerica Park that the Tigers are now gearing Martinez’s comeback for next spring. His running progression, which was supposed to be the next hurdle if and when he got enough strength in his left leg, has been pushed to November, giving him enough time that the team medical staff expects him to be ready for the start of Spring Training next February.

“I’m anticipating [Martinez] being ready to go from Day 1,” Rand said.

It wasn’t for lack of effort, Rand emphasized. Essentially, he has been doing some sort of rehab since the end of January, when he had his microfracture surgery. But they couldn’t get his left leg strong enough to start a running progression, which he needed to do before he could begin baseball activities.

The final decision came on a Wednesday conference call with therapists handling Martinez’s rehab work.

“It got to a point where we looked at it and he doesn’t have enough time to do a running progression and start doing baseball activities,” Rand said.

It wasn’t an easy decision, and Rand said Martinez was “disappointed.” However, the move provides some clarity on what the Tigers will have for the postseason. More important for Martinez, it allows him to focus his effort on next season and not worry about putting his long-term health at risk for a quick comeback.

“We were not going to do anything to jeopardize [2013 and 2014],” Rand said.

Two surgeries, same timetable for V-Mart (updated)

Victor Martinez has more damage to his left knee than previously thought, and will end up having two surgeries to repair the damage from his workout accident. But the added procedure shouldn’t affect his timetable for returning next season.

After getting a second opinion from noted specialist Dr. Richard Steadman, Martinez underwent microfracture surgery and meniscus repairs last Friday, and is still awaiting reconstructive surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament. He’s still expected to miss the upcoming season, but he should be ready for Spring Training next year.

It’s worse than the original diagnosis, but it’s not really a surprise. According to multiple sources, it’s also not as bad as it sounds. Essentially, the surgeries will get everything repaired around the same time.

Martinez blew out his left ACL little more than two weeks ago, when his right foot slipped during an agility drill. According to Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand, the impact of the fall also caused damage to his medial and lateral meniscus. He also suffered a chondral defect, which Rand compared to a divot on the end of one of the bones in the joint.

“When he tore his ACL, he had some collateral damage,” Rand said.

That isn’t unusual. Will Carroll, who writes about sports injuries for SI.com, said it’s very rare for ACL injuries to not include other damage. He compared the microfracture surgery to fixing the shocks on a car ahead of the other work.

Dr. Victor Khabie, chief of sports medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York, agreed.

“When you tear your ACL, it’s not uncommon to also tear some meniscus,” Dr. Khabie said in a phone conversation. “What’s a little unusual is the microfracture. That’s not totally unusual. That just signifies a more severe injury than meets the eye. …

“A lot of athletes will get microfractures along with the ACLs. It just doesn’t get the attention.”

If the divot analogy sounds familiar, it’s the same type of injury that former Tiger Carlos Guillen suffered when Brett Gardner slid into his knee in August 2010. That, too, required microfracture surgery, albeit from a different surgeon. The relatively new procedure promotes healing by creating small fractures around the injury, promoting the creation of cartilage to cushion the bone.

Dr. Steadman, an innovator in the procedure, operated on Martinez last Friday at his clinic in Vail, Colo. Once Martinez recovers enough from that surgery, a process that’s expected to take six to eight weeks, he’ll have his ACL rebuilt. By having the microfracture surgery now and waiting on the next surgery, his rehab from the ACL procedure should be easier than if he had both surgeries at the same time.

“Dr. Steadman said you have much better outcomes if you repair the collateral damage first,” Rand said.

Dr. Steadman performed microfracture surgeries in 2010 on Tigers outfielder Clete Thomas and Indians All-Star Grady Sizemore. Thomas came back from midseason surgery to full workouts last Spring Training, while Sizemore’s recovery took about 10 months.

It’s a little less predictable than ACL repairs, but it’s becoming more common.

“In terms of science, it’s a good operation,” Dr. Khabie said. “It’s actually withstood the test of time. It’s one of the first things you think of when you hear about cartilage damage.”

The Tigers were already expecting Martinez to miss the upcoming season, so this doesn’t change anything in their plans. Detroit replaced one star hitter with a bigger one last week by signing All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million contract.

Any thought about Martinez catching again, however, is almost surely gone, though it might be physically possible for him to do it. Tigers officials were already planning on Martinez — who turned 33 last month — being a designated hitter for the rest of his contract, which runs through 2014. Detroit signed former Tiger Gerald Laird in November to take over backup catching duties behind All-Star Alex Avila, with whom Laird shared catching duties in 2009 and ’10.

Those plans came together soon after Martinez sprained his knee on a slide at home plate last August at Kansas City. Rand said an MRI exam taken near season’s end showed no structural damage from that injury, so the Tigers don’t believe that injury caused any damage revealed now. When Martinez’s right foot slipped during an agility drill two weeks ago, Rand said, his weight all fell on his left leg before he could brace himself.

“It seems that when these things happen, a lot of times they happen not during play, but during workouts,” Dr. Khabie said. “With these big guys, when their knees go, they just go.”

Fielder to Tigers: 9 years, $214 million

The Tigers spent a week reacting to Victor Martinez’s season-ending left knee injury. Their eventual reaction was big enough to be worthy of a Prince.

After supposedly looking for a short-term solution to the void in the middle of their order, the Tigers went big, physically and financially, with All-Star slugger Prince Fielder. On Tuesday, the two sides agreed to terms on a nine-year contract worth $214 million.

Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports and Jon Heyman of MLB Network and CBSSports.com first reported the talks and ensuing agreement. A source confirmed the terms to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez.

The Tigers have not commented on the reports. The team has a policy of not commenting on reported deals until the players involved have passed physicals.

The move caught the rest of baseball by surprise, not so much regarding the Tigers’ interest but by the lengths they pursued Fielder to get a deal done. What was expected to be a short-term replacement became a cornerstone acquisition, reuniting Fielder with the team he followed as a child.

With a nine-year deal, Fielder would be under contract with Detroit through 2020. Even then, however, he’ll be 36 years old, which made a long-term deal for the 27-year-old an intriguing one. That intrigue just wasn’t expected to include the Tigers.

Until Martinez tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in a training mishap a week and a half ago, the Tigers were set at designated hitter. Martinez hit .330 with 103 RBIs last year to help lead Detroit to its first division title in 24 years and protect Miguel Cabrera in the lineup on the first baseman’s way to his first American League batting crown.

Though the Tigers supposedly had contact last week with Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras, in the wake of Martinez’s injury, the fit didn’t look realistic. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski downplayed the chances of a Fielder deal just last Thursday, telling MLive.com’s Angela Wittrock that they probably would be focused on a short-term deal.

“Of course we’d consider it,” Dombrowski said of Fielder at the time, “but realistically, it’s probably not a good fit. … We anticipate Victor Martinez coming back in 2013 and playing at the level he was at last season.”

Dombrowski wouldn’t completely put the Fielder speculation to rest but stuck to his statement that the “fit really is not there at this point.”

As recently as Monday, Dombrowski told the Detroit News, “We’ve got a lot of names to consider.”

However, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch has a history of putting together deals with Boras late in the offseason. In 2004, Ivan Rodriguez surprised many with a four-year contract to join a Tigers team coming off a 119-loss season. A year later, Magglio Ordonez signed what ended up being a six-year deal with the Tigers.

Both deals came together late in the offseason with pursuers dwindling. So did Johnny Damon’s one-year contract with the Tigers two years ago. That decision was strongly believed to have come directly from Ilitch, who, at the age of 82, has made his drive to win a World Series well known.

Ilitch’s push is believed to have been the driving factor behind the Fielder deal as well. The owner remembers Fielder from the first baseman’s childhood days tagging along with his father, former Tigers slugger Cecil Fielder, around Tiger Stadium and the Tigers clubhouse during the early 1990s.

Defensively, the fit also seemed unlikely. Fielder has played his entire Major League career with the National League at first base in Milwaukee, having played just 17 career games at DH during Interleague Play. The Tigers have installed Cabrera as a cornerstone player at first base, where his defense has improved markedly over the last two years.

A source close to Cabrera said the Tigers front office approached the slugger to see if he would be all right with the club adding Fielder and possibly pushing Cabrera away from first base. Cabrera, according to the source, told the team he was fine with it, and that he’s looking forward to playing alongside Fielder.

Cabrera told the Venezuelan newspaper <i>Lieder in Deportes</i> that he’s moving back to third base. Whether that’s on a full-time basis or part-time remains to be seen. At the very least, the Tigers are expected to use a rotation that makes sure neither is relegated to a being a full-time DH, including some games at third. Cabrera manned the hot corner for several seasons with the Florida Marlins before the Tigers moved him to first early in 2008.

What the Tigers will do a year from now, when Martinez is expected to be back at full strength, will be another challenge. Martinez spent most of last season at DH while filling in at catcher on some days as essentially a backup to All-Star Alex Avila. An August knee sprain, however, limited Martinez to DH down the stretch, and manager Jim Leyland said at season’s end he planned not to catch the 33-year-old Martinez again for the rest of his contract.

In the end, however, the Tigers had an offensive hole that Ilitch and management felt they needed to fill. They’ll deal with the roster impacts later, certainly next year.

The move caught even Cecil Fielder by surprise, the former slugger told MLB Network Radio. The father and son have had an estranged relationship in recent years stemming from debts the elder Fielder accumulated in retirement, reportedly costing the family their home. However, they have kept in touch in recent years.

“I didn’t see Detroit in the picture,” Cecil Fielder said.

Very few people did. But one big financial swing, it happened.

“I know Mr. Ilitch is probably excited,” Cecil Fielder said. “He’s been wanting that kid since he was a little kid, so he finally got his wish.”

Why a Johnny Damon reunion makes sense

Around this time two years ago, the Tigers were about midway through the six-week saga of signing Johnny Damon to be their left fielder and designated hitter. He had a good, not great season in Detroit, good for a .756 OPS and a .355 on-base percentage, then was told by the Tigers near season’s end they weren’t interested in re-signing him. Detroit was already plotting a pursuit of free-agent Victor Martinez.

So with Martinez likely out for the season, why would the Tigers have interest in going back to Damon?

Well, they have a few pretty good reasons. But the big picture is that this is a much different team, and a much better offense, than the one that split with Damon last offseason. Delmon Young is the veteran, run producing corner outfielder the Tigers lacked in 2010. Brennan Boesch isn’t a rookie anymore, and Alex Avila is an RBI guy.

The Tigers are searching for a bat to fill the opening left by Martinez, but if they can help it, they’d rather do it with an outfielder. They’d rather keep Miguel Cabrera at first base than have to move him in and out of the DH slot, and an outfielder would allow them some flexibility with Delmon Young in the DH role if they want. Granted, Damon has had just 46 starts in the outfield over the last two seasons, but he at least provides the capability.

Juan Pierre, another free agent linked to the Tigers, kind of falls in the same category, though he has been an everyday outfielder the last couple years in Chicago. Both have declining skills showing, especially in the field, but both can be productive near the top of the order.

Neither would likely be as expensive as a middle-of-the-order hitter, which is a factor. Though the Tigers did have an insurance policy on Victor Martinez, it isn’t believed to be for nearly as much as many have speculated (including myself).

Damon or Pierre would allow them to move either Young or  Boesch down while (in theory) improving the percentages of Cabrera coming up with runners on base. They also add a left-handed bat in the top third of the order, something both manager Jim Leyland and team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski have referenced in recent days. Leyland, of course, has also referenced the appeal of adding a top-third order hitter and a better baserunner.

The idea, of course, hinges on somebody else batting behind Cabrera.  Young thrived last year batting in front of Cabrera in part because he saw a lot of strikes; nobody’s going to pitch around the guy batting in front of Cabrera. Boesch struggled mightily batting behind Cabrera down the stretch in 2010, but he’s a more mature hitter now. Leyland never wanted to bat Jhonny Peralta above sixth last year, and he didn’t want to put a whole lot of RBI pressure on Alex Avila either.

Interest in Damon appears to be in the early stages at this point. The Tigers haven’t had any direct contact with Damon, according to a source. But then, with the Yoenis Cespedes pursuit on hold pending his residency clearance in the Dominican Republic, the Tigers aren’t likely to add an outfielder until the Cespedes courtship gets resolved, or at least becomes clearer.

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