Martinez progressing well in Leyland’s eyes

LAKELAND, Fla. — Victor Martinez might be hitting just .239 so far this spring, but he looks good to Jim Leyland.

“I
see no indication of any issues at all,” the Tigers manager said of Martinez’s
return from the microfracture surgery on his left knee that forced him
to miss the entire 2012 season.

Martinez has not caught in a
spring training game but has worked out there a bit, throwing to the
bases. Although he’ll play most games as the designated hitter, Leyland
said he might get back behind the plate for a game or two.

“Eventually
at some point if he’s real healthy, he could catch a game in
interleague play,” Leyland said. “But that’s down the road. I don’t want
to make a big deal about that, because we’ve laid low on that. But is
it a possibility? Sure, down the road.

“If we felt like it
was some real nasty, nasty left-hander, and Victor was healthy enough
and you felt like you weren’t risking anything, you might do it. And
he’ll want to do it, I know that.”

Martinez had a single and a double against the Houston Astros on Thursday, upping his spring average to .265.

Garcia healing

Avisail Garcia knows he’s running out of time if he wants to make the big league club.

After Friday, there are only nine games remaining in spring training.

Including Thursday, Garcia has missed four games since bruising his right heel Saturday. Before Thursday night’s game, he was walking in the clubhouse without crutches.

“My foot hurt a little bit here (heel) but here (mid-foot), nothing,” Garcia said. “It’s a little bit sore. When I put all my weight like this, it’s still a little bit hurt. I’m working a lot. I don’t want to be in the trainer’s room. I just want to play.”

Garcia said he’s icing his heel and doing whatever treatments the trainers suggest in order to try to heal the injury in time to play.

“I don’t want to feel nothing (pain) before I start playing baseball,” Garcia said. “That’s what I want because if I start playing, I play for one week and then (hurt) again. I want to be good.”

Garcia is aiming to back up Andy Dirks in left field but realizes the injury may have set him back.

“If I’m going to play, I’m going to play,” Garcia said. “If not, keep working and see what happens.”

Dirks, who bruised his right knee Tuesday after running into the left-field wall, remains day to day. Leyland said he hoped Dirks would be available Friday.

Rondon makes 10th spring appearance

Although Leyland has not named a closer yet, all eyes continue to be drawn to rookie Bruce Rondon.

Rondon appeared in his 10th spring game Thursday, allowing one run on three hits to the Astros.

Rondon is now 2-1 with a 3.72 ERA.

“In fairness, he was working with a young catcher (Curt Casali),” Leyland said. “One thing he did find out is that 100 (mph) means nothing. He was fine.”

Bullpen remains a concern

Al Alburquerque is not having the best spring of his life.

In 10 appearances, he’s 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA after allowing two runs on two hits in 1 1/3 innings against the Astros.

“He threw some hanging sliders and did not have very good command at all,” Leyland said.

Joaquin Benoit, on the other hand, has been solid. He also made his 10th spring appearance Thursday, pitching a scoreless eighth inning.

Benoit has a 1.80 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 10 innings.

But there is a spot or two available in the bullpen.

“It’s time for some guys to start stepping up,” Leyland said. “Performances are being evaluated.”

Get ready to run

Aside from Austin Jackson, Quintin Berry and Jeff Kobernus, the Tigers are not a fast team.

But they all have to be ready to run. So on Saturday, Leyland plans to have every player “run a triple.”

“We’ll
do some other loosening up first but we’ll run one triple for
endurance,” Leyland said. “They’ll run a triple before we get out of
here, hopefully Saturday. As long as you’re all right, it’s a
get-after-it triple.”