Detroit — It wasn’t just its actual physical manifestations, or its sudden onset. What truly terrified Victor Martinez, as his heart was beating through his chest and the ground beneath his feet spun, was the image of his father, who died of a heart attack at age 66.
“I was definitely scared,” said Martinez, who returned to Tigers after missing 12 days recovering from an irregular heartbeat. “Especially, you know, with my dad having died from a heart attack. It makes you think a little bit. Thank God everything is good and I should be ready to play tomorrow.”
Martinez, who had previously only hit off a tee and did cardio work on an elliptical, took a full round of batting practice before the game Tuesday. He stopped taking the medication over the weekend and expected to be cleared to remove the heart monitor Tuesday, as well.
“We’re planning on him being in the lineup tomorrow (Wednesday),” manager Brad Ausmus said. “We won’t make a (roster) move until tomorrow.”
It was Martinez’s fourth at-bat against the Rays on June 15. He hit a ground ball to shortstop that was misplayed. As the ball rolled into the outfield, Martinez barely made it to first base.
“I felt it in the third or fourth inning,” Martinez said. “I told Omar (Vizquel, first base coach) I wasn’t feeling that good. That last at-bat, I could barely swing the bat. I told Omar I couldn’t go anymore.”
He said his heart was racing and he was so dizzy he couldn’t run. His thoughts turned quickly to his father, who endured multiple heart attacks before the last one ended his life.
“I was definitely scared,” he said. “It makes you appreciate your life. You’ve got to enjoy life every day because you just never know. I always try to live my life and get the most out of it.”
Martinez, who never had any heart issues before, said the doctors thought dehydration may have been the root cause of the irregular heartbeat.
“At the same time, they also told me that a lot of people just get irregular heartbeats, too,” he said. “The good thing is, they were able to get my heart back in normal rhythm. My heart is still good.”
It didn’t help matters watching the Tigers lose eight straight games while he convalesced.
“It’s not fun when you’ve got to sit on your couch while your teammates are busting their butts trying to find a way to win a ball game, and you can’t do nothing about it,” he said. “That’s definitely not fun.”
There were a lot of smiles and hugs when he, along with his son Victor Jose, walked back into the clubhouse. Ian Kinsler, as Martinez was surrounded by cameras and reporters, joked that he could avoid giving interviews by saying they were too stressful on his heart.
“It’s awesome,” Mikie Mahtook said of Martinez’s return. “He’s one of the key pieces on our team and a great guy. Anytime you go through something like that; injuries are terrible but that was a real scary situation.
“I’m glad to see him back and smiling again.”
Wednesday will be 13 days since Martinez has faced live pitching, so some rust is to be expected. But Ausmus said he didn’t believe there would be enough to warrant a rehab stint.
“I’m excited,” he said. “It’s always exciting every time you get back to playing this game. I am just going to try and do my job and help the team find a way to win ball games.”
Martinez was asked if the heart scare made him question how long he wanted to continue to play.
“No,” he said. “I don’t really think about that. I already know when I am going to be done playing.”
He has said in the past that he will play through the end of his contract with the Tigers, through next season, and then retire to his cattle ranch in Florida.
“If I can’t play to the end of this contract, then that’s in God’s hands,” he said.