February 22, 2013; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Victor Martinez (41) prior to the game against the Atlanta Braves during spring training at Disney Wide World of Sports complex, Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Today is the day when pitchers and catchers are due to report to the Detroit Tigers’ team facilities in Lakeland, Florida (YAY! Let spring begin!), and among those who have arrived is designated hitter Victor Martinez.
It’s not all that surprising that Victor would still consider himself a catcher – it was his primary position for years, and he even played three games behind the dish last season – but I suspect the team isn’t going to risk his knees (which are now being held together with rubber from old Firestone tires, probably) during too many spring drills.
That being said, it’s entirely reasonable that Victor could catch a bit in the regular season this year. We’re probably not talking more than a handful of games, but they could use his bat in the lineup in National League parks (when the DH isn’t in play), and particularly against left handed pitchers, against whom Alex Avila tends to struggle.
The Tigers will visit four NL parks this season, with the most significant road trip coming right away in April. After opening the year with six games at home (three versus the Kansas City Royals and three versus the Baltimore Orioles), the Tigers will travel to southern California for two games against the Los Angeles Dodgers and three games against the San Diego Padres (April 8 through 13).
After that, the designated hitter will be in play for the Tigers until after the All-Star break with the team travels to play the Arizona Diamondbacks for three games in late July. Then there’s just a quick two-game set in Pittsburgh in mid-August (they’re doing the four-game home-and-home series with the Pittsburgh Pirates again) to wrap up Detroit’s season of DH-less play.
The Dodgers project to have at least two lefties in their rotation – Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu – and could have a third, Paul Maholm, if Josh Beckett isn’t healthy to start the season. San Diego might only have one lefty starter in Eric Stults. Arizona could throw out lefties Patrick Corbin and Wade Miley, and Pittsburgh will have Francisco Liriano and Wandy Rodriguez.
If these projected rotations hold, the Tigers would probably only see four or five of these guys, so we’re not talking about a huge workload behind the plate for Victor, even if he dons the tools of ignorance in each instance. And of course, the Tigers would probably like to be able to have his bat in the lineup in the World Series, if they are fortunate enough to get that far in 2014.