LAKELAND, Fla. — Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez is raking.
Martinez launched a 400-foot solo home run Sunday afternoon off Philadelphia Phillies starter Roy Halladay and added a single as a left-handed hitter. He later added an opposite-field single hitting right-handed.
He hugged hitting coach Lloyd McClendon in the dugout after the homer, celebrating all the work the two had put in since both arrived early for spring training to work on getting his stroke sharp. Martinez went 16 months between games after left knee surgery kept him out all of the 2012 season.
“It was (special),” Martinez said. “The teammates are more happy than I am, and I am just a kid out there. It is one of those things that makes me work my butt off.”
He’s batting .571 after three games and said, “I am not even thinking of an off day.” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he is considering playing him at first base with Prince Fielder being given off Monday’s game in Clearwater with the Phillies.
“He’s swinging pretty good right now,” Leyland said. “He’s feeling pretty good about himself. … Victor is going to be ready; no question about it.
“He’s greedy and told me he doesn’t care how far the trips are. He wants to get his two or three at-bats in every game.”
Martinez hit .330 and drove in 103 runs for Detroit in 2011.
He’s worked hard in the batting cage, but said getting his timing back this quickly has been surprising.
“The hard part is getting into a rhythm and picking up the ball,” Martinez said, “and I’ve been able to do that. It’s a good sign. … I’m not really thinking about the knee anymore.”
KEEPING AN EYE ON SCHERZER
The Tigers have been taking it easy with Max Scherzer, who threw his first batting practice session on Sunday. Scherzer missed a Sept. 27 start with a deltoid strain, and did not go longer than 6 1/3 innings in a postseason start. Though, he did pitch very effectively. The deltoid is located on top of the shoulder, and is instrumental in lifting the arm.
“Scherzer had a great BP,” Leyland said. “Really terrific. We’ll know more tomorrow if there is any stiffness. But I don’t expect that. He felt free and easy (today). His stuff was electric.”
“We’re just being precautionary with all the innings he pitched last year, and he had that little bit (of deltoid problems) at the end of the year. All signs are really good.”
Compounding the precautions were the facts that Scherzer pitched to the end of October and that Grapefruit League games began about one week earlier than normal to accommodate the World Baseball Classic schedule during spring training.
“He feels good,” Leyland said. “If he feels normal tomorrow, with just normal stiffness, that will be the best news.” BELLIARD ON THE MEND
Tigers infield and first base coach Rafael Belliard had his cancerous prostate gland removed with surgery on Jan. 31, and said he expects to return to full duties in about one week. Basilio Cabrera, manager of the Gulf Coast League Tigers, has been the interim first base coach.
“The doctors said that I am 95 percent free of cancer,” Belliard said. “I have a checkup on March 18, and I hope to be all clear then. I think they caught it in time. I did 40 minutes on the treadmill today and feel so much better.”
INJURIES ADDING UP
Tigers left fielder Andy Dirks was a late scratch for Sunday’s lineup, and Quintin Berry was inserted into the starting lineup in his place.
“It’s just some tightness in my left side,” Dirks said. “I don’t want to go out and swing and pop it. I’ve been working out and taking a lot of swings. It’s just soreness from that.”
Dirks said he did not consider it serious.
However, Leyland said that the strained right calf muscle utility infielder Ramon Santiago suffered during Saturday’s warmups is more serious than first thought.
“He’s going to be out awhile,” Leyland said. “If not, I’ll be surprised.”
Santiago said, “I was running sprints and felt like somebody shot me in the leg. I just have to stay positive and wait until I get healthy.”
Left fielder Brennan Boesch has been out one week with an oblique strain. AROUND THE HORN
Leyland was pleased that there were no rain delays — only a few sprinkles — and that the Tigers got in 10 innings on a hectic day. There was a Major League Baseball Players Association meeting for players, and meetings for coaches and club officials to clarify rules changes. Leyland said the most helpful clarification was that second base is now the only base that pitchers can fake a pickoff throw to in any situation. It was pointed out that fake throws to first and third can’t be made even if runners occupy those bases.
Drew Smyly makes his spring debut Monday against the Phillies in Clearwater and Casey Crosby and Darin Downs also are scheduled to pitch. Miguel Cabrera is making the trip after originally scheduled to be off. He needs to work on getting his timing down. Cabrera is batting .111 with one monstrous home run.
Yankees outfielder and former Tiger Curtis Granderson broke his right forearm Sunday after being hit by a pitch from Toronto Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ and is expected to be out for 10 weeks. “That’s close to home for us,” Leyland said. “That’s a shame.”
Danny Worth went 0-for-2 Sunday and will start again Monday at shortstop. Jhonny Peralta returns to the lineup Tuesday in Kissimmee against the Houston Astros.
Daniel Fields, the center fielder last year for Lakeland and Erie, made three outstanding catches in the first three games of the spring as Austin Jackson’s late-inning caddy. This is definitely a player to watch.