Sure, you might remember Detroit Tigers DH Victor Martinez as the guy who missed the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL in his left knee that required surgery.
The guy who is currently in the Tigers camp in that spot looks nothing like that, though. In fact, you might even say that Martinez looks like he hasn’t missed any time at all, let alone a full year of professional baseball.
Nah, the team’s projected No. 5 hitter isn’t exactly tearing the cover off the ball with a .283/.358/.383 triple-slash in Spring Training thus far, but as far as the Tigers are concerned, the veteran is right where he needs to be.
After all, the .742 OPS would put Martinez right around the .758 that he finished his last camp with in 2011, and he was a .330 hitter that season then, even though the power numbers had taken a bit of a tumble (12 homers over 595 PA).
With a sure-fire 30-homer man Prince Fielder hitting in front of him this season, the Tigers would be perfectly happy with a V-Mart who could bat .300, and the rest of his spring numbers seem to bode well for his readiness to make that happen.
That is, if you read anything into the fact that the 34-year old was the team’s leader in at-bats (60), and hits (17) going into Sunday’s Grapefruit League game against the New York Mets. An 0-for-4 day meant that Martinez relinquished that lead (to Fielder), but that kind of performance has been a rarity lately, as the veteran has had hits in six of the previous spring outings and was coming off three multi-hit games in a row.
The fact that he’s been handling the kind of regular workload without issues would suggest that any concerns with his knee are well in the past. Ditto any ideas that Martinez’s plate discipline won’t quite be the same in 2013, as the switch hitter has struck out just eight times in 21 games.
None of this would have come as anything unexpected had Martinez not gone through the layoff, but as it turns out, perhaps there was never much for the Tigers to worry about to being with.
… other than wondering when they were going to get their DH back, of course. Losing him was a significant blow for the Tigers offense in 2012, and the team still made it to the World Series then.
In 2013, a healthy and prepared V-Mart might just end up being the thing the team needs to take the final step.