Aug 19, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) and designated hitter Victor Martinez (41) look back against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Detroit Tigers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 8-5. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Detroit Tigers two best hitters have gone down with injuries and had surgery this offseason. Last week news broke that Victor Martinez tore his left meniscus. This was just over three months after Miguel Cabrera had ankle surgery to remove bone spurs and repair a stress fracture.
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Cabrera’s surgery has set him back to the point where he will not participate in most of Spring Training and is questionable to start the 2015 season. Martinez will be out around one or two months after his surgery on Tuesday. Now, the Tigers have to decide how they will handle these injuries and their recoveries.
Like all teams, the Tigers have had injuries the last few seasons and they have played some of them on the liberal side. Two seasons ago, the Tigers let Cabrera play through a minor injury that lingered through the back half of the season and led to his core surgery. The Tiger have also been conservative in other injuries like last year and their handling of Anibal Sanchez’s pectoral strain toward the end of last season.
I am a proponent of erring on the side of caution when it comes to injuries and recovery times. I would rather let an injury completely heal and sacrifice a game early in the season than have an injury linger through the entire season like it seemed Cabrera’s core injury lingered in the second season of his back-to-back MVPs. If he could have had both of his legs and his core underneath him in 2013, Cabrera had a legitimate shot at two Triple Crowns.
The Tigers know their road to a possible 5th straight American League Central Crown is going to be difficult after the Kansas City Royals made their rise to power last year, the Chicago White Sox added weapons to challenge the Tigers, and the Cleveland Indians could have a bounce back season. The Tigers are playing 28 of their first 35 games in 2015 against AL Central foes: 9 against the Minnesota Twins, 6 against the Indians, 6 against the White Sox, and 6 against the Royals. These early season important games could lead the team to rush back both Cabrera and Martinez.
The Tigers will need Cabrera and Martinez to perform at their best against their AL Central rivals, but at the beginning of the season, it may be wise to at least hold out Martinez whose knee injury was the same knee in which he tore his ACL before the 2012 season. Rather than re-aggravate his injury and possibly lead to a larger setback, the Tigers need to rest Martinez. Cabrera has had the entire offseason to recover from his surgery and can at least test his foot.
The Tigers can at least stop gap Martinez’s absence with a combination of players. The Yoenis Cespedes trade looks much better now that Martinez has gone down because the Tigers need Cespedes’s bat in the lineup on a daily basis. The Tigers could also use Steven Moya and Tyler Collins as substitutes until Martinez can return. The Tigers could also sign Dayan Viciedo as a stop gap and platoon him with Moya and Collins.
Realistically, Tigers fans should see Cabrera on Opening Day and hope to see Martinez in May. The Tigers should err on the side of caution and make sure both are fully healed before they make their returns.