J.D. Martinez locked in, clubs three homers
Lakeland, Fla. – They can pitch him in. Or away. They can pitch him up. They can go for the kneecaps. They can throw fire. They can opt for junk balls.
J.D. Martinez hits everything.
He seemed Thursday to be sensing Opening Day’s arrival as Martinez blasted three home runs in a 10-6 drilling of the Yankees at Marchant Stadium in the next-to-last Grapefruit League home game.
To no one’s surprise, each of his homers was a fireworks show, with great dispersion, as he launched one to left-center, right-center, and right field.
“I’d have been more surprised if he pulled (one of the homers) than if he went the other way,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who knows first-hand that Martinez is an equal-opportunity slugger who hoists his drives uniformly to all fields.
Martinez had four home runs, 11 RBIs, and a .213 batting average when he arrived Thursday at Marchant. He finished the day with seven homers, 15 RBIs, and a .255 batting average, which is now joined by a Martinez-grade 1.041 OPS in 19 Grapefruit League games.
That’s more in line with a right-fielder, 28, who in his two years with the Tigers has batted .296, with 61 home runs, 178 RBIs, and a combined OPS of .893.
“The time’s right to lock it in,” said Martinez, who acknowledged that he wasn’t terribly comfortable ahead of Thursday’s game as pitchers worked him over with nasty stuff he typically sees in midseason. “Now’s the time to go out there and hit.
“It took me a little longer (this month) to get ready … like I was searching for myself.”
Martinez was joined Thursday by a Tigers lineup that’s expected on occasion to bruise some pitchers in 2016.
Ian Kinsler had a home run (fifth of the spring), as well as a single and sacrifice fly, while Miguel Cabrera had a double off the left-center field fence to go with a single. Anthony Gose and Andrew Romine each tripled, and Justin Upton ripped a double.
Kyle Ryan was supposed to start for the Tigers, but he was dealing with a bug, which brought on minor-league free agent Logan Kensing, who has a serious chance to make the Tigers bullpen.
Kensing, 33, a right-hander who has worked for four big-league teams (Marlins, Nationals, Rockies, Mariners) pitched shutout baseball for two innings, striking out three.
“He’s got good movement on his fastball,” Ausmus said of a reliever, 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, who was a second-round pick in 2003 when he pitched for Texas A&M.
Kensing was followed by Lendy Castillo, Preston Guilmet, Bobby Parnell, Paul Voelker, Dustin Molleken, and Warrick Saupold.
Castillo allowed a pair of runs on two hits and a walk in two innings as his high-caliber arm has yet to show a steadiness that could earn him a promotion, even in a bullpen still dealing with injuries to Alex Wilson and Blaine Hardy.
Parnell threw reasonably well but had some bad luck, especially on a bloop single Upton misjudged, in allowing two runs in two-thirds of an inning that also featured a pair of strikeouts.
Voelker, a right-hander who was one of the Tigers’ farm chains breakthrough pitchers in 2015, was sharp in a one-inning shift, while Warrick Saupold, the Australian minor-leaguer, was touched for a pair of runs in the ninth, only one of which was earned.
The Tigers wrap up their Grapefruit League home season Friday against the Rays. Their preseason finale is Saturday against the Braves at Disney World, all before the team heads for Miami and Opening Day on Tuesday against the Marlins.