Still not 100 percent, but J.D. Martinez ready to roll
Anaheim, Calif. — Tough crowd.
Upon his return to the Tigers clubhouse Friday, J.D. Martinez was greeted by a black-and-white photo of the werewolf-looking kid from the movie “Jumanji” — with the caption, “Welcome back, Monkey Boy.”
Granted, Martinez hadn’t cut his hair the entire seven weeks he’d been on the disabled list, and his mane was, well, immense. But still, it was a rude and hilarious welcome.
“I am about to get it cut here in a few minutes,” he said.
Truth is, the Tigers are thrilled to have their right-fielder back, even though, as manager Brad Ausmus said, there was still some trepidation. The pain and soreness in his right foot hasn’t completely subsided.
“We’re going to have to see how he feels and see how he’s moving around,” said Ausmus, who batted Martinez in the No. 6 hole Friday. “If he seems like he’s not moving around great in the outfield or on the bases, we will maybe have to pinch-run or defend for him late in the game.
“We’ll just wait and see.”
The reports from his abbreviated rehab stint in Toledo were that he was moving around fine, both in the field and on the bases. But Martinez didn’t feel 100 percent ready to return — especially at the plate — which is why he’d planned to remain with the Mud Hens through the weekend.
“It was mostly about performance,” Martinez said of his hesitance. “The foot is what it is. The doctors said it’s going to be sore and it’s going to bother you. But it’s normal. You can’t do any more damage to it. Nothing is going to happen on that matter.
“So, just go ahead and push it.”
He got close to 30 at-bats in extended spring training games, then another 26 plate appearances in his rehab stints at High-A Lakeland and Triple-A Toledo. He was 4 for 23 with two home runs and seven strikeouts.
He would have liked to have gotten a couple more games under his belt, but circumstances intervened. Outfielder Jim Adduci injured his right oblique muscle Thursday night. That prompted a call from general manager Al Avila late Thursday night.
“Al said, ‘Adduci went down. Can you come up and do it?’ ” Martinez said. “I was like, ‘All right, let’s do it.’”
He was up at 5 a.m. Friday to catch a flight to Orange County.
“I am excited to be here,” Martinez said. “This is what I trained all off-season for. Just been at home watching the games, I was going crazy, dying to get back. Really, I am just happy to be back.”
The injury — a sprained Lisfranc ligament — is in a fragile spot in his right foot. It’s impacted every time he puts weight on it. So the healing process was agonizingly slow.
“I would just keep going and wonder what’s going to happen,” he said. “OK, is it going to happen? Is it going to turn a corner? It was more like weekly improvements instead of daily improvements.
“It’s a lot easier to track daily improvement and know where you are. That wasn’t the case. You’d have to go a week at a time to see how it feels.”
The attending pain and soreness are going to be with him for a while longer. But the doctors have assured him that it would be abnormal if that wasn’t the case. He feels like he’s moving and running as he always has.
“I can get to my top speed,” he said. “The fear of really pushing off is going away. That is something I am excited about.”
Putting on his uniform, taking the good-natured ribbing from his teammates, re-engaging in his daily verbal joust with Alex Wilson and being able to contribute again — that’s the best tonic for the aches and pain.
“It’s felt like an eternity,” he said. “But the past is the past. I am here now and I am ready to go forward.”