Victor Martinez to undergo knee surgery

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

The same left knee that cost Tigers slugger Victor Martinez the entire 2012 season has been reinjured, requiring surgery next Tuesday.

The Tigers announced Thursday that Martinez, 36, and part of the team's lethal offensive tandem that also features Miguel Cabrera, will undergo repairs for a torn medial meniscus. The procedure will be handled by Dr. James Andrews, the famed sports orthopedic surgeon, at his office in Pensacola, Fla.

There was no recovery timetable announced. But it is conventional for meniscus surgery to require weeks, as opposed to months, to fully heal before an athlete returns to regular work.

Martinez's injury in 2012 was also centered on the medial and lateral meniscus, but that procedure involved much more serious microfracture surgery.

Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers president and general manager, said there was no indication from X-rays that Martinez is revisiting a similar condition.

"They took a very thorough MRI, and other doctors read it, and that previous surgery is fine," said Dombrowski, adding that he could not speculate on Martinez's recovery until next week after receiving Andrews' prognosis.

Kevin Rand, the Tigers' head trainer, also said reports were specific to a "medial meniscus tear" and that no further damage had been detected.

In terms of athletes, as well as the general public, meniscus tears typically require a 6-to-10-week rehabilitation period before routine activity is resumed.

Thursday's announcement jolted a Tigers galaxy that got similar news in late January 2012 after Martinez damaged his knee during a workout in Orlando, Fla. The Tigers said Martinez's most recent knee problem also occurred during a private workout. It was diagnosed during a visit to the Watson Clinic in Lakeland, Fla.

The news follows Martinez signing in November a four-year, $68-million contract that, in terms of length, duplicated an earlier four-year, free-agent deal with Detroit signed in November 2010.

Martinez had his best year ever in the big leagues in 2014 when he batted .335, with a league-best .409 on-base average and .974 OPS. He was intentionally walked 28 times as opposing teams grew ever more fearful of taking chances against a hitter so potent.

The Tigers three years ago acted quickly to replace Martinez. They signed free agent Prince Fielder to a nine-year, $214-million deal. But the market in February 2015 is less glamorous and is bereft of the brand of hitter Fielder offered three winters ago.

Should he not be ready for the start of the regular season, it is possible the Tigers would look more toward making J.D. Martinez more of an option at designated hitter, with prospects that another outfielder — perhaps even rookie Steven Moya — would more quickly be brought to Detroit.

The Tigers already are looking at a minimal spring camp for Cabrera, who had surgery in October to remove bone spurs and repair a stress fracture in his right heel.

It is not known if Cabrera will be ready by Opening Day, or if he will see any meaningful at-bats during spring camp's Grapefruit League season.

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Thursday that, while he too was heartened Martinez's injury appeared manageable in terms of recovery and absences, he would shuffle his lineup at two positions as the Tigers prepare for Opening Day, April 6, against the Twins at Comerica Park.

Ausmus said options at DH were obvious: J.D. Martinez, as well as fellow outfielders Yoenis Cespedes, Rajai Davis, and perhaps rookies Tyler Collins and Steven Moya, could all be used interchangeably at DH and in the outfield.

The Tigers skipper repeated that Alex Avila, normally a catcher, could find himself at first base, at least occasionally, along with infielder Andrew Romine, as well as minor-league prospects Jordan Lennerton and Aaron Westlake.

"There's not a baseball person on the planet who wouldn't prefer having Miggy and Victor batting third and fourth," Ausmus said, "but we've seen this kind of thing (injuries) before.

"We we saw it last year," he said, referring to spring-camp injuries that knocked out the 2014 seasons of Jose Iglesias, Andy Dirks, and Bruce Rondon. "Sure, it's adversity, and the only way to get past it is to deal with it and hope we'll get them back sooner than later."