Tigers have Leonys Martin back, but for how long?

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Outfielder Leonys Martin (hamstring) returns after a rehab assignment in Toledo.

Detroit — The first time Tigers center fielder Leonys Martin strained his hamstring and went on the disabled list, he missed 11 days and jumped right back into the fray without doing a rehab assignment.

The result: He went 21 plate appearances before he got his first hit.

“This time we did it right,” he said.

Martin was activated before the game Friday, after playing three games in three nights at Triple-A Toledo. Outfielder Mikie Mahtook was optioned back to Toledo.

“He did fine,” manager Ron Gardenhire said of Martin, who went 3-for-10 with two doubles and two runs scored at Toledo. “He feels good. He got hit in the rear (end) in the last game and somebody said he got brain damage, so we’ll just work from there.”

If the jokes are flying, then for sure Martin is back.

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“We really need him out there,” said Gardenhire, who batted Martin seventh against left-hander David Price. “He is a big part of our baseball team.”

But for how long? Martin will likely draw some interest as the trade deadline draws nearer, just as he did last year when the Cubs picked him up late for help defensively and as a baserunner. And that was in one of the worst years of his career.

He has had a renaissance of sorts with the Tigers, hitting .257 with a .327 on-base percentage and a 1.8 WAR. He’s hit nine home runs and scored 44 runs.

The Tigers have an option on him for next season, but he could be an intriguing get for a contending team before the July 31 non-waiver deadline and beyond.

“I’ve been through this,” Martin said. “It’s something you’ve got to deal with. I don’t have control. All I can do is show up and be ready to play. Only God knows what the plan is. I like Detroit. I’d like to be here.

“But it’s not up to me. We’ll see what happens.”

Of more pressing concern for him, though, is making sure the hamstring holds strong. He’s changed his workout regimen this time, doing more lower-body strengthening work.

“It got me pretty good this time,” he said. “I’ve been working a lot of different stuff with my lower body, trying to make it more strong to fight through this. I’ve been swinging it pretty good and seeing the ball pretty good.

“Being off that many days (15), it didn’t bother me a lot, so that’s good. Those three games helped me a lot with my timing. It feels pretty good, man.”

Still, he said he planned to ease himself back into big-league speed.

“It’s going to be one game at a time,” he said. “It feels really good, but I have to be smart.”

Pitchers healing

When the Tigers left for the All-Star break on Sunday, two of their veteran starting pitchers were dealing with minor medical issues. Both have come back healthy and ready to go.

Francisco Liriano left his start Sunday in Houston with lower back tightness after just three innings. He threw long-toss and did a bullpen session Friday and said he felt fine, no more stiffness.

He will start Monday in Kansas City.

Jordan Zimmermann left the team on Saturday to fly to Dallas to get a nerve-blocking shot in his back. It’s the same process he went through in the spring and, although he had a shoulder impingement, the neck and back stiffness that he battled the last two years has not returned.

He said he got the shot during the break as a preventative measure, so he could finish the season strong.

“Everything went great,” Gardenhire said. “He was going to play catch today and throw a bullpen tomorrow and we will go from there.”

Zimmermann is tentatively slated to start on Tuesday, though that is assuming everything checks out after his bullpen session.

Around the horn

Gardenhire was in Oklahoma during the All-Star break and didn’t get to see Joe Jimenez’s strikeout. “I was out in the country, no TV,” he said. “But as soon as I got within range to where my phone actually worked and I got some internet, I checked it out. It was pretty cool. I told him today, it doesn’t matter if it was one hitter or three hitters, I was really excited he got a chance to walk out there.”

… Two other pitchers on the disabled list have begun rehab assignments in Florida. Left-hander Ryan Carpenter (oblique) threw three innings at High-A Lakeland on Wednesday (two runs on four hits). Right-hander Johnny Barbato (rotator cuff tendonitis) threw an inning for the Gulf Coast League Tigers (one run, two strikeouts).

… This series marks J.D. Martinez’s first return to Comerica Park since the Tigers traded him to Arizona last season. He told MLB.com, "This is always home for me. That's the way I look at it. This is where I grew up. This is my home club almost. It just reminds me of all the growing pains I went through.”



Red Sox at Tigers

First pitch: 6:10 p.m., Saturday

TV/radio: FSD, 97.1

Scouting report:

LHP Brian Johnson (1-2, 4.20), Red Sox: A long-reliever by trade, he is holding a place in the Red Sox rotation for injured Eduardo Rodriguez (ankle). In Johnson’s last three starts, he’s allowed five runs and seven walks in 13 innings.

RHP Mike Fiers (6-6, 3.70), Tigers: As his name continues to come up in trade chatter, Fiers will be seeking his fifth straight quality start. He has posted an ERA of 2.00 over his last four (six runs in 27 innings), with an 18-3 strikeout-to-walk rate. Opponents are hitting .216 and slugging just .333 off him in that span.