Posted on May 12, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The starting lineup the Detroit Tigers envisioned at the start of spring training may finally be used Friday night when the club continues its series against the Los Angeles Angels. More than seven weeks after spraining a ligament in his right foot, the Tigers have activated outfielder J.D. Martinez from the DL to make his season debut Friday. The return of Martinez adds a big bat to Detroit’s lineup and more or less gives the Tigers the starting lineup they expected to have this season.
Martinez will be returning a few days earlier than expected, a move necessitated by the loss of journeyman outfielder Jim Adduci to an oblique injury. Adduci has done a fine job helping to fill the void in right field for the Tigers over the past couple of weeks, hitting .318 with an OPS of .888 in his first big league action since 2014. However, Adduci was scratched from Thursday’s game after hurting his oblique during batting practice. He’s been placed on the DL, creating room and a need for Martinez to be activated.
“Once this happened in BP, to me, it was really a no-brainer (to reinstate Martinez),” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. “It might be a couple days early for J.D. It’s maybe not perfect, but I’ll be glad to have J.D. back anyways.”
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Martinez has played in six minor league rehab games over the past week, going 4 for 23 (.176) with two home runs. After missing more than a month of the season, Martinez could certainly benefit from more at-bats before returning to the majors. But with the injury to Adduci and the Tigers struggling to stay above .500, they have no problem rushing him back a little early.
“Ideally, (Martinez) would have gotten another couple of games in (triple-A) Toledo but he’s got over 50 at-bats between his rehab assignment and extended spring training,” Ausmus explains. “That’s quite a few at-bats. He’ll more than likely be in the lineup (Friday), then maybe sit on Saturday and play on Sunday. We’ll probably ease him into it a little bit.”
With a somewhat shortened rehab stint, there should be some question as to whether Martinez is fully healed from his foot injury and physically ready to return to playing in the majors every day. But Ausmus and the Tigers feel he is ready to go.
“The report is he feels fine moving around,” Ausmus shared. “There might be some residual soreness in the foot. He was hoping to get more at-bats in terms of prep but again, he had more than 50 at-bats.”
In addition to Ausmus, several of Detroit’s key players, including Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, and Justin Upton, expressed joy when learning Thursday that J.D. Martinez was going to be activated on Friday.
“Nice,” Cabrera said when he learned the news. “Now we’re going to have all the guys back.”
Even without Martinez in the lineup for the first month of the season, the Tigers are still ranked in the top half of the American League in most offensive categories. Upton, Cabrera and Nick Castellanos are all having productive seasons, while catchers James McCann and Alex Avila have provided a surprising amount of power.
Despite missing more than a month with an elbow injury last year, Martinez hit .307 with 22 home runs and 35 doubles, producing an OPS of .908 and being one of Detroit’s most important offensive players. The Tigers are hoping he’s able to hit the ground running upon his return and make a similar impact this year.
If nothing else, his presence will add some stability to Detroit’s outfield. Both center field and right field have been revolving doors this season, and while center field remains a position with little clarity, the Tigers are now set in the corner spots with Upton and Martinez.
It may be a little unrealistic for the Tigers to expect Martinez to step in right away and perform at a high level, but his return will lengthen Detroit’s lineup and give them another proven run producer. Even if he starts off slow, Martinez should eventually return to the form he’s had with the Tigers the last three seasons, giving Detroit an important boost in what is currently a tight and competitive AL Central.