Cleveland — As the ball was retrieved and sent back to the Tigers’ dugout for safe keeping, the crowd at Progressive Field stood and cheered for Victor Martinez.
“It was a great moment,” Martinez said, after producing the 2,000th hit of his career, a two-out single off Carlos Carrasco in the second inning Friday. “I will always remember this moment until I die. It was pretty special the way the fans reacted.”
Martinez, who will go down as one of the most prolific switch-hitters ever to play, has posted 1,383 hits batting left-handed, and 617 batting right-handed. He becomes the ninth active player to achieve the 2,000-hit milestone — joining Ichiro Suzuki, Adrian Beltre, Albert Pujols, Carlos Beltran, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Matt Holiday and Jose Reyes.
He is also the eighth Venezuelan-born player to produce 2,000 hits.
“A lot of things went through my mind,” he said. “Going back to 2002 when I got my first hit here. I got a bloop single over the shortstop, and this one's pretty similar. I thank God for everything, just getting me to this spot."
The reaction of the fans genuinely moved him.
“It was really special for me,” he said. “I never thought they were going to stand up and clap, but like I said before, this was the organization that gave me a chance to be a professional baseball player, gave me a chance to become a major leaguer.
“I never wanted to leave this place. Unfortunately, that's the business. I got traded and it was hard. It was hard for me to leave this place, and I hope they know that. Even my mom says we're always going to have Cleveland in our heart.”
His first 900 hits came when he was wearing an Indians uniform.
“It definitely means a lot,” Martinez said. “Was it on my radar? Honestly, no. But my career went on and on and then it’s like, you know, I’ve got a pretty good chance to make it. Unfortunately I lost almost a year and a half with injuries, but I think for a guy who doesn’t run very well – it means a lot.”
His first hit was in September 2002.
“I think the pitchers name was Miller (the late Justin Miller), right-hander for the Blue Jays,” Martinez said. “It was a two-run single. A blooper. If I remember, it was a two-run single to tie the game up in the seventh inning.”
He remembers his 1,000th hit more clearly. It was 2009 with the Red Sox.
“It was against the Yankees and I hit a two-run homer off C.C. (Sabathia),” he said. “He was my battery mate (in Cleveland) for a long time. That was special.”
It was brought to manager Brad Ausmus’ attention before the game Friday that Martinez was one hit shy of 2,000.
He thought about it for a minute.
“Vic and I have combined for over 3,000 hits,” Ausmus said with a grin. “We’re a Hall-of-Famer."
Praying for Tito
When Martinez played in Boston, his manager was Terry Francona. Francona, the Indians manager, underwent a procedure (cardiac ablation) Friday to correct an irregular heartbeat.
That certainly hit home for Martinez, who recently was shutdown for 10 days with similar heart arrhythmia.
“I am actually going to ask somebody which (hospital) he is at so maybe after the game I can get a chance to talk to him,” Martinez said. “When they were in Detroit, he said he wasn’t feeling too good. He told me he was feeling something similar to what I had.”
Both Martinez and Francona complained of rapid heart rate, dizziness and fatigue. In Martinez’s case, doctors were able to put the heart back in rhythm without the procedure.
“It’s not fun,” Martinez said. “I hope they get him right.”
Around the horn
Daniel Norris got his MRI results back and they showed a mild groin strain. He was placed on the disabled list Thursday and Ausmus said they won’t make any decisions until after the All-Star break. The Tigers won’t need to use a fifth starter until July 18.
… Tigers pitchers posted 13 strikeouts and no walks in the 6-2 win against the Giants Thursday. That was the seventh time in team history they achieved that combination since 2013. The last time was Aug. 3, 2014 against the Rockies.
… Nick Castellanos entered Friday's game leading the American League with six triples.
… The Tigers signed 28th-round draft pick Cameron Warner, a second baseman from Texas Christian. The Tigers have signed 31 of their 40 picks.
Tigers at Indians
First pitch: 7:15 p.m. Saturday, Progressive Field, Cleveland
RHP Mike Clevinger (4-3, 3.33), Indians: Just last Sunday at Comerica, he went six innings and limited the Tigers to two hits and one run, despite walking five. He walked five of the first 13 he faced and only one scored.
RHP Justin Verlander (5-5, 4.96), Tigers: He’s allowed seven or more runs in four of his last seven starts against the Indians, including the seven runs he allowed in 3.1 innings Sunday. In his last four starts in Cleveland, he’s been tagged for 20 runs in 22 innings.