Time running out for Tigers' Martinez
FEB 07, 2014 11:15a ET
DETROIT -- Victor Martinez is running out of time and knows it.
At 35, Martinez has never played in a World Series and his contract with the Detroit Tigers is up after this season.
He definitely feels the urgency.
"You're not getting any younger," Martinez said. "You're getting older and you know that the end of your career might be right around the corner.
"You don't have much chance to keep trying and trying. That's it. It's sad, but it is what it is."
In 2012, when the Tigers faced the San Francisco Giants in the World Series, Martinez was sad that he couldn't play because of a knee injury he suffered during offseason conditioning.
But when Martinez was in town for TigerFest, he appeared relaxed and peaceful as he talked about his offseason.
"Great, man. It can't be better," Martinez said. "Spending time with the family the whole time. Getting ready for another season."
Martinez said the biggest difference between this offseason and last is that this time he's completely healthy.
"Right now, I know I'm ready to play, to start playing games tomorrow, something that last year I didn't know," Martinez said. "I was getting ready, but last year at this point, I was just starting to run the bases.
“I want to get a ring.”
"Definitely by far, this year is a lot better."
After missing the entire 2012 season, it took Martinez a while to get going at the plate.
Before the All-Star break, he hit just .258 with eight home runs and 50 RBIs in 93 games. After the break, he hit .361 with six home runs and 33 RBIs in 66 games.
"It's not fun to start like that," Martinez said. "I wish I could start a little faster, but it is what it is. At the end, we play 162 games.
"It doesn't matter how you start; I think it's how you finish. It's more important just to help the team get there."
The team is a different one than the one that lost to the eventual champion Boston Red Sox in the ALCS.
The Tigers traded Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for second baseman Ian Kinsler, and sent starter Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals for reliever Ian Krol, starter Robbie Ray and utility player Steve Lombardozzi Jr.
"I was surprised," Martinez said. "It's tough to replace a bat like Prince."
Like he did before Fielder's arrival, Martinez will likely bat behind two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera, but Martinez doesn't consider himself protection for Cabrera.
"It doesn't matter who you put behind Miggy," said Martinez, a career .303 hitter. "At the end, he's gonna get walked when they need to walk him. It doesn't matter.
"They walk him with Prince behind him. He's his own protection. He's definitely the best hitter in the game right now.
"I don't think I have to put any kind of extra pressure on myself at this point."
The other major change for the Tigers is that Jim Leyland is no longer the manager. Former Tigers catcher Brad Ausmus, 44, is the new skipper.
"I like him," Martinez said. "Young for a manager, smart. I'm really looking forward to play for him.
"Former catcher, he knows what it takes to win games. It's pretty cool."
Although Martinez is the team's designated hitter, he did catch a couple of games last year and wouldn't mind doing so again.
"I always prepare myself like I'm going to be catching every day, knowing that I won't be able, but whatever they need me, I'll be there," Martinez said. "Last year, nobody thought that I was gonna catch, but I did, two games."
Martinez's demeanor becomes far more fiery and serious once the season begins.
"Sometimes my wife says, 'You're different on the field than you are off the field,'" Martinez said. "As soon as I step onto that field, just turn the switch and bye, Victor, here comes the other Victor.
"I think when you're that competitive, you just want to win. I have never got a chance to win, not even in the minor leagues, and that's something I'm working for that. I want to get a ring. I think that might be it."
Martinez still believes the Tigers have a great chance to help him get that ring. If it doesn't happen this season, however, there's no guarantee he'll return to the Tigers.
Max Scherzer is on a one-year deal, and Cabrera's contract is up in two seasons.
"I want to stay here, yes, but on the other hand, they have a lot going on," Martinez said. "We'll see what happens. God's been great to me, my family, and I think he's gonna do something before I retire."