March 01, 2013; Port St Lucie, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez (41) bats against the New York Mets in the spring training game at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Tigers’ designated hitter Victor Martinez was back in the lineup today five days after appearing to grimace after a swing-and-miss in Friday’s game. Martinez said he was fine afterward and Jim Leyland even came out and said his days off were planned ahead of time and that there was nothing to worry about.
"“You guys have to understand, you’re searching,” Leyland said. “Victor is fine. You guys are being real suspicious. Victor is absolutely fine."
You can’t really blame anyone for being “suspicious” or even simply concerned about the situation. Martinez missed all of last season with a knee injury and his return for the 2013 has been referred to as being potentially the “biggest offseason addition” for the Detroit Tigers (in an offseason that includes the signing of Torii Hunter and Anibal Sanchez).
And that type of talk isn’t hyperbole either. Martinez (2.9 fWAR in 2011), as a replacement for the departed Delmon Young (-0.7 fWAR in 2012), could represent a two win upgrade to the team at the designated hitter position even if he only produces at half the level of his fantastic 2011 season. He could possibly represent a 3+ win upgrade if he comes close to matching his 2011 numbers.
But today, in his return after four days off, Martinez only stayed in the game long enough to make one plate appearance (a walk). John Lowe of the Free Press found out that Martinez doesn’t want to swing right-handed at the moment due to some back soreness.
"“I didn’t take the second at-bat off the lefty because I’ve been a little sore in my back and it’s a little uncomfortable to swing on the right side. It’s just a couple of days,” Martinez said."
Martinez went on to say that he’s still getting work in with the bat and that “it’s nothing to worry about” but one can’t help but wonder if we’re gong to be dealing with reports of bumps and bruises from Martinez all season long (and next year as well). It is only spring training so it’s good to see him take it easy and not push it, but in order for him to make a truly positive impact during the season, he’s going to need to get his health in order. If he’s in and out of the lineup and never quite 100%, he’s not likely to provide the five-hole protection that he’s capable of providing.
The good news is that the knee does appear to be perfectly fine. Hitting from the left side was the difficulty with respect to that injury, so the fact that he could hit from that side without discomfort bodes well for his ongoing recovery. The season is still nearly four weeks away, though, so there’s plenty of time for him to rest up and get his required work in to prepare for the year. Let’s just hope these scratches and dents do eventually go away.