Detroit — Victor Martinez has played 1,793 games in the big leagues, and he’s batted in the clean-up spot in 812 of them. The vast majority of his time in Detroit has been spent hitting fourth in the lineup behind Miguel Cabrera.
Before the game Wednesday, manager Brad Ausmus informed Martinez that he would be batting sixth for the immediate future.
“He was good (about it),” Ausmus said.
Moving Martinez down in the order has been a regular topic of Ausmus’ pregame media sessions. It has also been grist for local sports talk radio shows. But until Martinez went on the disabled list with an irregular heartbeat, Ausmus remained steadfast about keeping him in the four spot.
Ausmus liked the idea of keeping his hitters in comfortable spots in the order. He also liked having Martinez’s left-handed (switch-hitting) bat to break up the parade of right-handed hitters — Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, Nick Castellanos.
But Martinez had cooled off considerably at the plate. After hitting .318 with a .936 OPS and 16 RBIs in May, he was hitting .233 with a .562 OPS and one RBI in June. So, now that Martinez is coming back after missing 12 days, Ausmus thought this was a good time to make the move.
Ian Kinsler and Alex Avila were the first two batters in the lineup Wednesday. Justin Upton has moved into the third spot, followed by Cabrera and J.D. Martinez. Victor Martinez will bat sixth in front of Nick Castellanos, Mikie Mahtook and Jose Iglesias.
“Miggy and J.D. looked good where they were at,” said Ausmus, referencing that the two produced two homers and four RBIs Tuesday. “Alex has hit well in the two-spot and Kinsler has hit leadoff basically since I’ve been here.
“So (sixth) is just where Victor slots in.”
Victor Martinez has batted sixth in 34 games over his career, 127 plate appearances (.310, .881 OPS, six homers and 16 RBIs). The last time he hit out of another spot besides fourth with the Tigers was in 2015, when he hit fifth in 16 games.
“We are just glad he’s back,” Ausmus said. “We don’t think there is going to be any issue (with his heart) going forward. We are hoping it’s just a one-time event. And there is no concern about the (12-day) layoff or his swing. He’ll be fine.
“We hope he comes back and he’s hot.”