Detroit – The season is over for designated hitter Victor Martinez, but not his baseball career.
The Tigers announced Saturday that Martinez, on the disabled list with an irregular heartbeat, will undergo cardiac ablation surgery.
“The procedure isn’t scheduled yet, but it will be,” said manager Brad Ausmus, who talked at length with Martinez on Friday. “Because of the medicine he has to take following the procedure, he can’t play the rest of the year.”
Cardiac ablation is a common procedure to correct heart arrhythmia. Indians manager Terry Francona had the procedure done before the All-Star break. He returned to manage the team after the break.
“It’s still heart surgery and initially, Vic had some trepidation – with good reason,” Ausmus said. “But after talking to the doctors again, he opted to go for it. It’s common and they assured him there shouldn’t be any long-term risks.”
The Tigers moved Martinez onto the 60-day disabled list and purchased the contract of right-handed pitcher Artie Lewicki from Toledo. Lewicki will start Sunday in place of Michael Fulmer (right ulnar neuritis).
Martinez has one more year, at $18 million, left on his contract and he told Ausmus that he expects be ready to play next season.
“He made no indication at all that this would be the end of his baseball days,” Ausmus said. “And I’d be shocked if it was.”
Typically, cardiac ablation is done with catheters, pumping radio-frequency energy (microwave heat) to destroy dead or damaged tissue around the heart that may be causing the rapid or irregular heartbeats.
Martinez, who was felled by the condition earlier in the season, as well, had been trying to treat it with medicine only. The medicine can control the heartbeat, which is a temporary fix. Ablation destroys the bad tissue.
“Anything that involves surgery on the heart, you take a step back and think it over,” Ausmus said. “But we expect him to be good for 2018.”
Martinez was enduring one of the least-productive seasons of his career. He was hitting .255 with a .372 slugging percentage and .697 OPS – way below his career averages. He also had career-lows in home runs (10) and RBIs (47).