Return of Martinez spells end of Hunter’s career as a Tiger

Dave Dombrowski didn't completely rule out Torii Hunter's return but it seems highly unlikely.

Jesse Johnson

DETROIT — Although Torii Hunter wasn’t able to win a World Series with the Tigers, he’s still grateful for his time in Detroit.

After re-signing Victor Martinez to a four-year contract, Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski called Hunter to let him know they would probably not bring him back.

"We talked for 15-20 minutes," said Hunter in a phone interview from South Bend, Ind. "He’s always been awesome. He wants to sit down as a friend and be truthful.

"Victor was the main priority. I said that from day one. After the season he had, it was a no-brainer. You gotta bring him back."

Dombrowski said that Hunter deserved to hear the news directly from him.

"In Torii’s case, he merited that," Dombrowski said. "From the conversations we’d had, we knew he would like to play here, if it was possible

"But just the way we shape up, we had to get a center fielder. Then all of a sudden, when you look where we are with (J.D.) Martinez and (Rajai) Davis out there, there’s just really not enough playing time to go around."

Dombrowski didn’t completely rule out Hunter’s return, but it seems highly unlikely.

"If something changes where we make some changes for one reason or another, which we’re not anticipating, we would still be open," Dombrowski said. "It’s just really probably not as much of a fit right now.

"I thanked him and wished him well. We had a great conversation."

Hunter, who turns 40 next July 18, hit .286 with 17 home runs and 83 RBI in 142 games with the Tigers last season.

The previous season, Hunter hit .304 with 17 home runs and 84 RBI.

"Just because we have to part ways doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot of friends in the organization and in the city of Detroit," Hunter said. "I just want to say thank you to the fans for supporting me and for the way they travel. I was amazed to see fans in Seattle, L.A. There were Tigers fans everywhere.

"That fan base is awesome."

Hunter also had nothing but nice things to say about Dombrowski and the rest of the Tigers organization.

"I want to thank Mr. Ilitch," Hunter said. "He’s awesome, one of the best owners.

"I want to thank Dave Dombrowski, Jim Leyland, Brad Ausmus, all guys who were part of my success there."

Hunter said that he’s heard from other teams but plans to take his time before making a decision.

"I’m just looking at the layout, trying to figure out with my own eyes," he said. "See which team is good, which is not."

Hunter hopes that whatever team he ends up with will make a trip to Detroit, where he can say thanks to the fans in person.

"I want to thank the community for bringing me in, making me part of the Tigers family, part of Detroit," Hunter said. "I had a blast in my two years there.

"It’s hard to say good bye."