Lakeland, Fla. — The initial diagnosis on Tigers right fielder J.D. Martinez: It could’ve been worse.
Martinez suffered a mid-right foot strain Saturday in the first inning of the Tigers 5-4 exhibition win over the Marlins.
“X-rays were negative,” head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said. “We are going to do some more diagnostics to make sure we don’t have any more issues going on. He will be reevaluated tomorrow.”
Martinez left Joker Marchant Stadium in a protective boot, but Rand said that was just precautionary.
“Just to keep the weight off it for tonight,” he said. “But it looks pretty good right now.”
Martinez charged hard toward the infield on a two-out pop up by Tyler Moore. He said initially he was thinking he needed to slide but realized he could get to it standing up. As he caught the ball, his right foot rolled and he stumbled and tumbled to the ground.
“I didn’t think it was anything when he first went down,” said Gene Lamont, who managed the split-squad game in Lakeland. “But then he got up and he was limping. You hate to think the worst, but it looks like it’s not real bad.
“At least it’s not with three or four days left in spring training. If there is something good about it, it’s that it happened with a couple of weeks left.”
Martinez began limping to the clubhouse immediately, but was waived into the dugout where Rand was waiting to examine him. Rand then escorted him back to the clubhouse for X-rays.
“We'll see about it tomorrow,” Martinez said, still limping through the clubhouse two hours later. “I know as much about it as you guys do. It's good that I'm able to move on it … I knew right away that I wasn't going to be able to stay in.”
Rand said he was “very relieved” with the clean X-ray results, but there is still some concern.
“We will need to see what it looks like tomorrow and if we have to we will do more diagnostics (possibly an MRI),” he said. “We should have a better feel for it. You really don’t get a good feel for it for at least 24 hours.”
As for the game, Justin Verlander made his fifth spring outing and continued his trend of strong starts. He pitched five scoreless innings, allowed four hits (all singles) with no walks and four strikeouts.
“He threw the ball good,” Lamont said. “I don’t know what his velocity was (92-94, touching 95 mph) but I don’t need to know. He was throwing well.”
He threw 80 pitches, 52 for strikes. With two spring starts left, he’s just about ready for opening day.
“Once you get up to 80 pitches or so, the difference between 80 and 100 is not that big,” Verlander said. “I think for right now, it’s just repetition. Also, you have a lot more time to feel the pace of the game and work on whatever you’ve got to work on.”
The last pitch to come around for him was the change-up, and it was a weapon for him Saturday. He got two strikeouts with it.
“It was much improved,” he said. “I am throwing everything now. The sequencing is different than it would be, but I am throwing all of them. Some good and some not. Still ironing out some stuff.”
Alex Presley, who took over for Martinez in right-field, hit his second home run of the spring. Andrew Romine and Mikie Mahtook both tripled and scored. Mahtook, who is starting to square the ball up more regularly, hit his triple about 418 feet to the wall in center field.
The Marlins scored two runs off Alex Wilson (three singles and a hit batsman), and a run each off Justin Wilson (home run by Moises Sierra) and Mark Lowe.
The Tigers pulled the game out in the bottom of the ninth. An RBI double by John Hicks tied the game. Hicks then scored the game-winner on an infield hit by minor league call-up David Gonzalez and a subsequent throwing error.