Tigers' Victor Martinez shakes slump with big day

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Minneapolis — Before the game Sunday, manager Brad Ausmus gave slumping designated hitter Victor Martinez a cautious vote of confidence.

Asked if he was contemplating moving him out of the No. 4 spot in the batting order, at least until Miguel Cabrera comes off the disabled list, Ausmus said, “For the time being, I'm not changing anything. I expect that he'll start hitting here soon or later.

“But obviously if he didn't, we might have to do something different.”

Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez uses his bat for an air guitar during batting practice before the start of Sunday's game against the Twins.

Martinez validated his manager’s trust in Sunday's 13-4 victory over the Twins with three hits and two RBIs. He even notched his first extra-base hit of the season, a double. Martinez raised his average from .190 to .222.

“That’s a little misleading because he's actually hit some balls that would be extra-base hits if he wasn't the runner,” Ausmus said. “And the truth is, if he's got guys on base and he hits those balls, they end up scoring, even though it's a single for him.

“He hit a ball in Cleveland that short-hopped the center-field wall. It was a single for him, and it would have been a double for anybody else. So it's a little misleading. But he's obviously a better hitter than he's shown so far.”

Ausmus said he hasn’t noticed anything particularly alarming in Martinez’s swing, no obvious decrease in bat speed.

“He's inconsistent right now with his swing,” he said. “He has some good at-bats, some days where he looks good and then other days where he looks like he's trying to add on a little bit.”

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Players mending

The Tigers clubhouse is slowly morphing into the baseball equivalent of a MASH unit.

JaCoby Jones (lip laceration) has joined first baseman Cabrera (groin), shortstop Jose Iglesias (concussion) and right fielder J.D. Martinez (foot) on the disabled list.

“We just need to stay away from the big injuries,” Ausmus said. “We don't think Miggy's going to be real long. JaCoby won't be real long. Iglesias won't be real long. J.D.'s going to be a month. It's April 23.

“You want to stay away from the long injuries. The other ones are relatively short term. Miggy's a little bit more up in the air, but I don't expect it to be much more than the DL time.”

Cabrera could be back May 2. Iglesias could be back Thursday. And there was some positive news regarding Martinez. Ausmus said he ran Friday 40 to 60 percent outdoors and felt no residual pain or discomfort the next day.

Ausmus said he expects Martinez to run again on Sunday and should soon be cleared to face live pitching and do defensive drills.

“He's down there (in Florida),” Ausmus said. “He can get a bunch of at-bats in extended spring training. He's got to be able to run first.”

Asked to estimate how much longer Martinez will be out, Ausmus said, “I don't think two or three more weeks. I think that's on the long side. I would think the end of the month, beginning of May. I'm kind of guessing.”

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Twins make a mess

The Tigers banged out 13 hits Sunday, but they were aided by some horrific defense by the Twins.

Left-fielder Danny Santana muffed a Justin Upton fly ball. Third baseman Miguel Sano had a chance to make a play on Jim Adduci’s first hit, and John Hicks’ two-run single went right through second baseman Brian Dozier.

The worst was the in the sixth, when the Tigers struck out four times and still scored three runs.

Twins reliever Michael Tonkin struck out Ian Kinsler and Tyler Collins with runners on second and third and two out. He then struck out Nick Castellanos, as well, but the third strike got past catcher Jason Castro. Not only was Castellanos safe, but both runners scored on Castro’s errant throw to first.

Victor Martinez poured salt into those wounds with an RBI double before Avila struck out to end the inning.

Around the horn

So, Hicks and Adduci get called up from Toledo and produce six hits, a double, home run and seven RBIs. Ausmus, your thoughts: “You’ve got to know when to call guys up (laughter).”