The Detroit Tigers have scored exactly three runs over the last two games, and two of those runs have been accounted for by a red-hot J.D. Martinez. With Andy Dirks‘ return glimmering off in the distant horizon, it’s interesting to look ahead to see who will be taken off the team when the injured left fielder returns.
Granted a lot can happen in the weeks before Dirks comes back. He’s about a week from beginning his rehab effort with a targeted return date somewhere around the All-Star break, but barring injuries or an incredible cold streak for J.D., the Tigers will have a tough decision to make.
It wasn’t long ago when Martinez’s days in Detroit appeared to be numbered. The fourth-year player, signed near the end of Spring Training after being released by the Houston Astros, was called up from Toledo on April 21, but was hitting around .200 by the middle of May. He was not getting many at-bats and struggled in the times he was playing.
Since hitting his first homer in a Tigers’ uniform in his 15th game, May 19 against Cleveland, he has caught fire.
Heading into tonight’s game with those Indians in Cleveland, Martinez has raised his average to .300 with six homers, 22 RBIs, a .903 OPS, and a 10-game hitting streak.
When the Tigers lost to the Royals on Wednesday by the score of 2-1, the deciding factor was an insane catch made by Alex Gordon. The ball, hit by Martinez, would have surely tied the game or who knows what would have happened.
Martinez has received more playing time recently. This was because at first, the Tigers were facing a lot of right-handed starters and Rajai Davis plays mainly against lefties. Then, with a lefty-heavy Kansas City team, Martinez spelled an injured Torii Hunter in right field.
I personally feel Dirks should not be guaranteed a spot when healthy, but reality tells me that’s not likely and he’ll be platooning with Davis in the lefty-righty rotation as was planned before his injury.
So where does that leave Martinez? He could be used as a pinch hitter more, enter a three-man rotation in left, or allow an aging Hunter, in clear defensive decline, more days off.
But then, who gets sent down? If it’s not Martinez, it will likely be Don Kelly. Yet losing Kelly will reduce the depth in the infield.
Donny baseball would have to go through waivers and, if not picked up, could choose to become a free agent.
Personally, I feel Martinez’s bat, even if he is slumping when Dirks is ready, is more important than Kelly’s versatility.
It will remain to be seen if the Tigers agree.