Leyland: We can win without V-Mart

Leyland: We can win without V-Mart

Published Jan. 18, 2012 7:36 p.m. ET

TOLEDO, Ohio -- Don't count out the 2012 Detroit Tigers just yet, that's the message from manager Jim Leyland.

Sure, he and the team have their work cut out for them after losing Victor Martinez for the season because of a left ACL tear.

"We're still a good team. I really believe this," Leyland said before speaking to Toledo Mud Hens fans at the team's annual Fandemonium event at Fifth Third Field. "I believe with the team that we have, even minus Victor, if we pitch, we'll be right in the hunt. That's what I think."

Leyland emphasized that he did not want to downplay the loss of Martinez because it would be disrespectful to someone who made such a difference for the Tigers last season, but he also couldn't afford to dwell on it either.

"I don't like having headaches, but I like challenges and this is gonna be a challenge for myself and the club," Leyland said. "But we're a good club. Everybody goes through this stuff. I try to find some bright side. The only bright side I could find -- and I believe this -- we're not in limbo. We know he's not going to be there so this gives us 10 weeks to take care of the situation."

Leyland said if the perfect situation presented itself, he planned to address the situation with the team during the winter caravan this week. If that doesn't happen, he'll wait until spring training when he meets with individual groups.

"Just have a five-minute meeting with the players, 'Look, let's all put our heads down, let's all feel sorry for ourselves, five minutes from now we'll look up and let's get on with our business,'" Leyland said. "Nobody's going to feel sorry for you. The bright side of this is this is an opportunity for somebody that wasn't going to get an opportunity."

For those concerned about Miguel Cabrera and who's going to bat behind him in the lineup, Leyland said he just doesn't know. Until the Tigers either acquire a player from outside the organization or decide on someone from within, he can't make that decision.

"It was so good last year because it was no problem for me," Leyland said. "Nobody ever questioned about Martinez hitting behind Cabrera. Now this year that was the first question I was asked yesterday already, 'Who's going to hit behind Cabrera?' I don't have that answer right now. It won't be a Victor Martinez, I can tell you that."

Remember, Cabrera finished second in American League MVP voting to Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton in 2010, the year before Martinez joined the Tigers. Cabrera hit .328 with 38 home runs and 126 RBI. That was when he had either Carlos Guillen or Brennan Boesch hitting behind him.

It may very well end up being Boesch hitting behind him, or perhaps Alex Avila.

"When Victor Martinez hit behind Cabrera last year they still pitched around Cabrera to pitch to Victor, as good as he was," Leyland said. "So here's the other bright side of this, if there is such a thing, whoever hits behind Cabrera has a chance to have a hell of a year. You can look at it that way."

Leyland doesn't have to look far to find an example of how to overcome a big loss to injury. One of his best friends, former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, lost starter Adam Wainright for the season before it began and the Cardinals won the World Series. Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski mentioned that Tuesday during his conference call about Martinez.

"When somebody tells you that you lost your guy that knocked in 100-some runs for you and hit behind Cabrera, that's not a good feeling," Leyland said. "It's not the kind of challenge you want as a manager but it is a challenge. That's why you call it a team. It's going to be an opportunity. We'll come out of it all right.

"If we don't win, I don't think that'll be the reason we don't win, let me put it that way."