Tigers Mailbag: Ausmus shows poor timing in sitting J.D. Martinez

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
J.D. Martinez crosses home after the third of three homers Sunday against the Yankees.

And, I'm back.

Sorry for the hiatus with the Tigers Mailbag. Other stuff came up that occupied my full attention.

But it seems I picked a good day to pick up the question-and-answer with the fans, who are none too pleased that Tigers manager Brad Ausmus decided to sit J.D. Martinez and Jose Iglesias for Tuesday night's game against the Indians.

This comes as the Tigers have won two in a row, as they try to claw back into the American League Central picture — with just a few weeks left to decide if they're going to be buyers or sellers at the July 31 trade deadline.

I understand Martinez doesn't have good numbers against Indians starter Danny Salazar. I also understand Martinez is absolutely on fire, after his three-homer spectacle in New York on Sunday.

I also understand players need days off.

But it seems the timing could be better.

It also seems I'm not alone in that opinion.

Let's get to the questions.

Question: 1-for-9 with seven K's vs. Salazar probably has something to do with it for J.D. -- Jesse Dieterman (

Answer: That's all fine and dandy.

But let's call those numbers what they are — a ridiculously small sample size.

Here's the sample size I much prefer to look at: In his last 16 games, Martinez is hitting .317/.358/.698 with an other-worldly 1.057 OPS. That includes seven homers and 19 RBIs.

Salazar is a good, young pitcher, one who no question can give right-handed hitters some fits. Martinez has been a victim in the past.

But the immediate past means much more to me, and Martinez is mashing like few others in the major leagues are at the moment.

And Iglesias has been a catalyst for this offense all season long.

The Tigers have won two games in a row, and looked good doing it -- and they have a good chance to turn their season around in the next week, with these last two games in Cleveland (they're 8-2 against the Indians in 2015), and then have four games against the reeling White Sox.

This is the chance to step on the opponents' neck and try to cut into the Royals' 5.5-game lead in the division.

But Ausmus decided, instead, to rest two of his hotter hitters, and put the completely lost Nick Castellanos back in the lineup.

Timing's key. It's lacking here.

Nick Castellanos

Question: Your gut feeling on Castellanos moving forward? Thoughts on James McCann vs. Alex Avila? -- Tim George (

Answer: Geez, Tim, that's two questions disguised as one.

If you were a White House correspondent back in the early 2000s, President Bush would've called you out for breaking the one-Q rule.

Good for you, we're not as strict here.

On the first point, I've definitely lost a lot of my confidence that Castellanos will become an impact major-leaguer. I've heard of the sophomore slump, but how he's fallen so far, so hard in one year is simply mind-numbing. There can only be two possible explanations -- he's physically different (he did gain 25 pounds in the offseason, which is either muscle or fat, depending who you ask), or he's completely lost mentally. It could be a combination of the two.

Castellanos and Ausmus can say all they want that Castellanos is taking good swings and he's hitting the ball hard, but he's not. At all.

Last year, he was on the better major-leaguers in hitting hard-hit balls; this year, he might just rank behind Justin Verlander.

If he doesn't get it together in a week or less, the Tigers have to consider shipping him to Toledo and giving his job to Andrew Romine.

As for McCann and Avila, I know the fans love McCann a lot and love Avila a lot less, but there should be a split platoon here. Both are great defensively, Avila remains a good hitter agianst right-handers, and as much as McCann has impressed, his OPS is a modest .680.

A 50-50 split in playing time seems about right.

Question: When does the fire sale start? -- Bradley Burleson (

Answer: It's a little too early to suggest a fire sale, seeing as we're more than a week out from July, and the Tigers aren't completely buried in either the division or wild-card race.

That said, I'm not saying there shouldn't be a fire sale at some point.

For instance, if Detroit is still treading water in mid-July and is, say, seven or eight games out of the division, it should be considered.

This is especially true since the Tigers have some extremely valuable commodities -- in David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, Joakim Soria and Alfredo Simon -- who could net a huge haul in trades.

Some have suggested it might, in fact, be best if the Tigers implode this year, because they could restock the farm system in a big way, trading those four players.

The problem here is this: Mike Ilitch, 85, is desperate to win now -- so he might not be inclined to wave the white flag in an effort to set the ballcub up for the future.

You can see the dilemma taking shape here.

It'll be fascinating to see how this all plays out, if the Tigers do, indeed, remain well back in the division -- a very real possibility.

Johnny Cueto

Question: Tigers gonna go after a starter at the deadline? -- Matt McClain (

Answer: It really depends, Matt.

If they don't feel like they're contenders, obviously there would be no point in trading for a starting pitcher who is three months from becoming a free agent.

Right now, I'd say it's 50-50 that the Tigers are buyers; that could shift to 60-40 sellers in a heartbeat, however.

People like to point out that in 2012, the Tigers struggled for months before getting it together and going all the way to the World Series. Yeah, that team also had Verlander in his prime, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and an electric Anibal Sanchez.

This team has Price, and not much else in the rotation.

If the Tigers fade from contention, that'll be the reason.

If they remain in the hunt, though, then a starter would have to be their first priority, and possibly even two starters.

They saw Johnny Cueto in Cincinnati last week, and would love to have him -- of course, so would everybody else.

The Tigers would have a hard time beating 10 other teams' offer, but it's possible if they dangle, say, Derek Hill, Dixon Machado and Buck Farmer. And if the Reds wanted to throw in Todd Frazier, the Tigers could offer the rest of the farm system and, say, Castellanos.

Of course, the Tigers still might be short.

Question: Would you allow Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame? -- Joe (

Answer: Joe and I have been going back and forth on Twitter on this topic for about a week now.

Here's my stance on Rose: I have no sympathy for the man, nor do I think MLB should ever consider reinstating him.

For starters, Rose bet on games as a manager and, now reported by ESPN, as a player. The punishment for such acts is a lifetime ban, and rightfully so, since players and managers betting on games put your sport's integrity in serious jeopardy.

And if you have no integrity, you have practically nothing.

Rose signed the lifetime ban, whether or not he understood what he was signing. Then-commissioner Bart Giamatti said reinstatement would be considered if Rose reconfigured his life -- in other words, if he removed himself from the tracks and casinos, and disassociated himself from shady figures. Rose, of course, did none of that, which is the reason Bud Selig didn't reinstate him.

Rose also lied for 11 years, saying he never bet on baseball -- until 2000, when he only admitted it because he needed to sell books.

Spare me. Rose will go down as one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen -- and one of the most tragic figures the game has ever seen. He is fully responsible for both epitaphs.