Injured Martinez coming along, hitting off a tee

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Toronto — J.D. Martinez is getting closer to resuming old habits, which the Tigers assume will be blasting pitches during his regular stints in right field.

But the timetable hasn’t changed.

Three weeks have passed, and three more weeks of recovery are anticipated as Martinez heals from his fractured right elbow.

“He hit with a fungo bat off a tee (Thursday) — 20 or 30 swings,” manager Brad Ausmus said Friday, a few hours before the Tigers and Blue Jays resumed their series at Rogers Centre. “He said he had a little pain throwing, but hitting wasn’t bad.

“He’s slowly resuming baseball activities.”

Martinez has been missing since he fractured the elbow when he rammed into the fence during a June 16 game against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

It knocked him from Ausmus’ lineup at the precise point Martinez was sizzling: .404 batting average in June, and a 1.076 OPS.

Moya defense can improve

He runs well enough on the bases, particularly for a man 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds.

But when chasing fly balls, Steven Moya can seem as if his feet are chained to a trailing lawn mower.

His range is a liability. At least at this point in a 24-year-old rookie’s big league life.

Ausmus said he believes Moya is so fixated on a fly ball’s path that his feet are restricted. Outfielders often get a bead on a ball and run to a particular spot or region before they reconnect with it and haul it in.

Moya shows no such facility.

“For some outfielders,” Ausmus said, “the ball starts bouncing” as they give chase.

It’s a sequence the Tigers and Moya are working to streamline as they simultaneously introduce a powerful left-handed batter to big league hitting realities.

Can work and coaching lead to a more efficient Moya in right field?

“(Nick) Castellanos,” said Ausmus — reminding critics of Castellanos’ defense that improvement, which in the third baseman’s case has been dramatic during the past year — also could be Moya’s experience.

Around the horn

Ausmus suggested rookie starter Michael Fulmer should have been considered for this year’s American League All-Star team. Fulmer is 9-2 with a 2.11 ERA and is a heavy candidate for rookie of the year.

... Bruce Rondon was back with the team Friday following a tough Thursday when a flu bug had hold of the reliever. Ausmus was unsure if Rondon would be ready to pitch.

... Ausmus said right-hander Drew VerHagen, on the disabled list since June 17 with thoracic outlet syndrome, is recovering minus surgery and that it’s “reasonable we’ll see him pitching again this season.”

... Ausmus, on Castellanos’ big season (17 homers, .307 batting average): “I think he’s always had the power. I just think he’s tightened his strike zone a lot earlier than we expected.”