Victor Martinez is within reach of Venezuelan milestone

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Houston — Victor Martinez doesn’t keep up with his milestones. He generally finds out about them when the media brings them up in conversation.

For example, the only reason he knew he was about to become just the fifth Venezuelan-born player to knock in 1,000 runs was because a Venezuelan reporter told him about it in spring training.

“I mean, it’s nice,” he said of the milestone.

He entered Friday’s game against the Astros with 997 RBIs. He is trying to join Miguel Cabrera (1,449), Andres Galarraga (1,425), Bobby Abreu (1,363) and Magglio Ordonez (1,236) among his countrymen with 1,000 RBIs.

“We’ve just been blessed to be this long in the game,” Martinez said. “I always say, I can’t thank God enough to allow me to play this game as long as we have.”

If his reaction to the 1,000-RBI milestone is a little tepid, it’s probably because he expected to achieve it well before this season. A weakened left knee limited him to 64 RBIs last season.

“Unfortunately the last couple of years have been a battle,” he said. “I’ve been breaking down little by little. But I am doing my best to hold on and finish my career strong.”

He’s healthy right now, but he’s been hampered by, of all things, the schedule. The Tigers have played four of their first eight games in National League parks where there is no designated hitter. He was relegated to one at-bat in each of those four games — he homered in two of those.

But he has yet to get into any kind of groove at the plate.

“It’s almost over,” he said. “Hopefully by May when we go to Washington I will be able to play first base. I just want to start playing every day and get into some kind of a rhythm.”

Martinez is certain there is another long productive run in him — possibly three.

“Yeah, I hope I have this one (season) and two more, I really do,” he said. “I am working hard to stay healthy.”

Bullpen plan

Manager Brad Ausmus would not discuss his bullpen plans for Friday’s game, but it seems obvious closer Francisco Rodriguez and set-up man Mark Lowe would not be available because of heavy workloads the last three games.

Drew VerHagen, also,probably was not available.

That left Justin Wilson to be the fill-in closer, with Buck Farmer, Kyle Ryan and Logan Kensing ready for possible late-inning work.

Ausmus, though, hinted at least one fresh arm could be joining the team soon.

Alex Wilson will be here sooner than later,” he said. “We will know within the next 24 hours.”

Wilson, on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, pitched back-to-back games for Triple A Toledo — the last a scoreless inning Thursday.

Blaine Hardy (shoulder) was scheduled to throw his second game in a row at Toledo on Friday. He, too, could rejoin the Tigers shortly.

Maybin update

Ausmus said he was expected a text from Toledo manager Lloyd McClendon later Friday night on the progress of center fielder Cameron Maybin (wrist).

Maybin had a double in four at-bats Thursday for the Mud Hens and, according to McClendon, has started swinging the bat more comfortably. Presumably, the conversation will help determine Maybin’s timetable to return to the Tigers.

... Reliever Bruce Rondon will be out at least two weeks. Ausmus said he strained his hamstring running sprints between outings in Toledo.