Tigers' Victor Martinez suffers torn ACL
DETROIT — Tigers designated hitter/catcher Victor Martinez tore his left ACL in offseason workouts last week and is expected to be sidelined for the entire 2012 season.
Martinez will get a second opinion next week, but Tigers president Dave Dombrowski said he doesn't hold out much hope Martinez, 33, will be able to avoid surgery.
Team trainer Kevin Rand said that Martinez was working out last week in Orlando, Fla., when he sustained the injury.
"He was doing some agility drills where he was going side to side, and his right foot slipped," Rand said. "That brought all of his weight down on his left knee. He called me over the weekend to tell me that he was having soreness, and we had him checked out on Monday. The MRI showed that the ACL was torn."
Martinez joined the Tigers as a free agent last season and helped them reach the American League Championship Series by hitting .330 and driving in 103 runs.
"Obviously, Victor is a quality hitter and a key part of our lineup, so this is a blow," Dombrowski said. "But we are going to digest this news. We're not going to rush out and make a decision before we have all of the information."
Martinez was unable to catch during the final two months of last season after spraining his left knee during a game in Kansas City on Aug. 6.
"When we signed him, his left knee was fine," Dombrowski said. "At the end of the year, he felt good, and he was cleared to follow his offseason workout schedule."
Rand said the two injuries were not related, and that he wasn't surprised that it happened in a routine workout.
"These things happen with knee injuries," he said. "You saw that in football this season, where a player stepped on the plastic sideline marker and blew out his ACL."
Until Martinez gets the second opinion and, likely, has surgery, the team won't have an exact timeline on his return, but Dombrowski did not sound optimistic.
"It is a possibility that he could come back late in the season, yes," he said. "But that's not something you want to count on. If it happens, that's an unexpected bonus."
That means the Tigers are in the unenviable position of having to replace one of their most important offensive players. Besides his own statistics, Martinez kept most managers from automatically walking Miguel Cabrera every time first base was open.
Dombrowski was quick to point out that the team could fill the hole without adding any players.
"We have quite a bit of flexibility," he said. "We have Ryan Raburn and Andy Dirks, who can play several outfield positions and let an outfielder DH. We have Don Kelly and we have Ramon Santiago, who could play shortstop and let Jhonny Peralta DH for a day.
"Also, we're going to have Brennan Boesch back from his injury, and we will have Delmon Young with us for the whole season, which is a combination we didn't have for most of last year."
Still, the Tigers haven't been able to fill the offensive holes at second and third base from inside the organization, so it's asking a lot to stretch the lineup.
That leaves either a trade, possibly with the pitching prospects who have been rumored to go in a deal for a starting pitcher, or a free-agent signing. There are several DHs still on the market, including Vladimir Guerrero, Hideki Matsui, Jonny Gomes and former Tigers Johnny Damon and Magglio Ordonez. But there's no one who could be expected to put up the same kind of numbers as Martinez.
"We've already gotten calls in the last hour from agents representing DHs," Dombrowski said. "If we decide it is best to make a move, we're open to that by all means. We just don't feel we have to do something immediately."
Dombrowski was asked if the news was "devastating" and quickly rejected the idea.
"I wouldn't use that word at all," he said. "In this business, you are going to get bad news. You don't want that, but it happens, and you have to pick yourself up and keep going. You have to be resilient in baseball.
"The Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright in spring training and won the World Series."
The Tigers still must be considered favorites in the AL Central — Martinez was not the only reason they easily won a weak division — but it's now hard to see them surpassing the Rangers, Yankees, Red Sox and Rays without adding a bat to the lineup.