Tigers: Victor Martinez out just 4-6 weeks

Tony Paul and Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Tigers were bracing for the worst, hoping for the best — and the news they got was even better than that.

Designated hitter Victor Martinez might not miss anytime this season, and even if he does, it shouldn't be too much.

"Probably as good of news as I could've hoped for," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Better than I was expecting."

Martinez had left-knee surgery Tuesday morning to repair a torn meniscus. Dr. James Andrews, most known for his Tommy John operations, did the surgery in Pensacola, Florida, and rehab is expected to last four to six weeks. That's because Andrews removed a piece of the meniscus.

Had Andrews been able to fully repair the meniscus — that was never the best bet, because of Martinez's age, 36, and the extreme wear and tear on the former catcher's knees — Martinez might've missed three months or more.

Andrews wasn't sure which route he would be able to go starting the surgery.

"Until you get in there and the doctors can really look, it's hard to get a pulse for it. It wasn't 100-percent obvious," said Dave Dombrowski, Tigers president and general manager. "It's good news for us.

"The doctors are comfortable for a full recovery, and that it'll be a full-go in a few weeks."

The Tigers learned last week that Martinez would need the surgery, and they've spent the last several days discussing potential contingency plans should Martinez miss significant time. There were rumblings Monday that they were interested in Blue Jays switch-hitter Dioner Navarro, which doesn't make much sense with Tuesday's news.

It's possible Martinez won't even miss Opening Day.

That's not the goal, of course. The Tigers say they'd like Martinez to be able to get at least a couple weeks worth of spring-training at-bats, but if time runs out on that, they'll be plenty open to keeping him in Lakeland, Florida, a little while longer.

"We've gotta be smart about this," Ausmus said. "We want Victor for the extreme bulk of the season, as opposed to making sure he plays in the very first game."

Still, the calendar could be on the side of Martinez playing from the get-go, which while not a necessity would be welcome news for a Tigers team that isn't sure Miguel Cabrera (foot surgery) is going to be ready in early April, either. The Tigers start the season later than normal this year, April 6 at home against the Twins.

Pitchers and catchers start working out in Lakeland on Feb. 20; exhibition games run from March 2 through April 4.

Martinez hurt his knee during recent offseason workouts, the second time he's done that in the last three years. In January 2012, he tore his ACL, which kept him out all of that season.

Martinez signed a four-year, $68-million extension with Detroit in November, after having his best season with the Tigers in 2014: 32 homers, 103 RBIs, .335/.409/.565. He finished runner-up to Mike Trout in the MVP voting.