Jun 19, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder J.D. Martinez (28) hits a home run in the fourth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

With J.D. Martinez red-hot, Detroit Tigers have tough decision when Andy Dirks is healthy

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.

Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

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.


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Tags: Andy Dirks Detroit Tigers Don Kelly J.D. Martinez

  • louwhitaker

    If they weren’t looking at dollar signs, and making the decision solely on which player has contributed the least, Torii would be jettisoned.

    • Subflat Waytizza

      I must agree. Torii seems to be taking a year off already. Why not make it official?

      Thenagain, can somebody like Hunter really take such a huge step backwards? I guess Nathan, Joe did.

  • Scott Bussinger

    The logical thing to do would be to trade Tori Hunter. 39 and declining skills big time. You might get some pen help for him. Granted Tori has a huge contract but they could do a similar deal that they did with Fielder. Also if management wants to win they will get a catcher that can hit. Having Avila batting 2.10 is not cutting it

    • miramichi

      I don’t get the excitement about getting Dirks back in the lineup from our management. Very ave. outfielder and hitter.

      • Scott Bussinger

        Dirks is a bit above average. He is a consistent .275 hitter with good defensive skills. I would dump Tori and his bloated salary over Dirks. If they trade Hunter they will have to pay part of this years salary for a team to take him but they should get interest from a contender and maybe get a pen arm for him

        • Matt Pelc

          I’m not sure of Torii’s contract, but being a high-priced veteran, I’d imagine he has a no-trade clause. He likes being in Detroit, especially getting closer to college football season since his son plays for Notre Dame. He’d probably only waive a no-trade clause if he were dealt to the Cubs or White Sox, both of which would never trade for him.

          I wouldn’t mind them benching Hunter, but they could use his leadership down the line into (hopefully) the playoffs. And while J.D. Martinez is a great story, he’ll have some slumps down the line that Torii could possibly be helpful to get him through.