Chicago — J.D. Martinez saw a couple of reporters leaving the hotel Thursday afternoon.
“You going to watch batting practice today?” he said.
Oh, yeah. It was must-see because for the first time since fracturing a bone in his right elbow, Martinez took batting practice on the field.
He took a regular turn with the final group and was swinging free and easy. He deposited balls into the seats in left and center.
“For the most part it felt OK,” Martinez said after the Tigers’ rain-shortened 2-1 win over the White Sox. “It still hurt on the ones I hit on the outside and the ones on the inside. But the ones I hit right in the middle felt good.”
He extended his throwing out another 10 feet, from 120 to 130.
“From last week to this week, it’s like night and day,” he said. “Next week if I can get the same improvement, I won’t feel anything.”
It’s the throwing difficultly that is making it tough to decide when to send him out on a rehab assignment. It will take longer to get his hitting back into game shape than his fielding.
“We’re trying to figure out, if he can hit and we think he’s close to being able to throw, when is it time to send him down and let him DH for X-amount of games before putting him in the outfield?” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He’s not going to have to play in the outfield much before he’s able to come back. It’s more about him getting at-bats.”
A rehab stint is only 20 games.
“We can send him down and let him DH, but we don’t want it to go 15 days and he still can’t play the outfield,” Ausmus said. “But it is a good sign he’s taking BP on the field.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred, speaking to Mike Greenberg and Buster Olney on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” program Thursday, said there have been discussions at the league level about putting restrictions on how a manager can use relievers in a game.
Among the ideas discussed mandating that relievers would have to face at least two batters when called into a game, or restricting the number of pitching changes a manager could make in a game.
Manfred said the two factors driving the discussion were the amount of time consumed by multiple pitching changes and the fact that the proliferation of power arms coming into games in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings were sucking the offense — and the drama — out of the late innings.
“I don’t like the idea of it,” Ausmus said. “To do it just to cut down on the time of game seems wrong. To start taking managerial decisions out of manager’s hands because you want to shorten the game, I don’t think your priorities are necessarily right.”
Reliever Alex Wilson agrees.
“In my opinion, why change something that’s not broken?” he said. “Games are getting faster as it is. You already put time limits on pitching changes. You aren’t going to limit pitching changes. They are still going to happen.”
Wilson said he believed the changes that Manfred talked about would impact the National League far more than the American League.
“Wouldn’t it just be easier to add the DH in the National League?” he said.
Wilson believes the Players’ Association would never endorse these changes.
“The relief force has turned the page as far as salaries go in the last few years,” he said. “Before you had to be a closer to really cash in. Now the way it is, people are starting to realize how important each role is.
“So to handcuff a handful of guys and put some guys out of work, doesn’t seem right. I can’t see it happening, so I am not too concerned about it. The fact that it’s even brought up is kind of aggravating.”
Around the horn
Jordan Zimmermann (neck strain) threw his second bullpen session Thursday, and barring any unforeseen setbacks, will make a rehab start with Triple A Toledo on Sunday.
Ausmus said he wasn’t sure if Zimmermann would need to make two rehab starts.
“I would say he probably would need two,” he said. “We will let him tell us how he feels and see how deep he goes in his first one.”
... Tyler Collins, who pulled a muscle in his neck Wednesday, took batting practice and could be available to pinch hit against the White Sox. He had a chiropractic adjustment Wednesday and said he felt much better.
... Left-hander Daniel Norris will make his second rehab start Saturday with Toledo against Norfolk.