CLEVELAND -- Tigers slugger Victor Martinez hasn't shown much emotion during an unofficial farewell tour, but something felt different for the 16-year veteran as he walked out of the visitors' dugout on Saturday at Progressive Field.Martinez greeted Indians manager Terry Francona and president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, and he
CLEVELAND -- Tigers slugger Victor Martinez hasn't shown much emotion during an unofficial farewell tour, but something felt different for the 16-year veteran as he walked out of the visitors' dugout on Saturday at Progressive Field.
Martinez greeted Indians manager Terry Francona and president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, and he was handed a replica of home plate inscribed with all of Martinez's accolades as a member of the Indians from 2002-09.
As fans gave Martinez a standing ovation, a montage played on the scoreboard of his greatest moments in an Indians uniform. That's when it sank in.
Martinez removed his hat, raised it with his right hand and spun to take in the crowd. Behind his sunglasses, tears began to well up. All he could do was wipe them away before giving big hugs to Antonetti and Francona, as he walked back to the dugout to prepare for Saturday's game.
"It means a lot," Martinez said prior to the ceremony.
There's a chance that Saturday marked Martinez's final game against the Indians as he plans to retire at the end of the season. Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said he might rest Martinez, who went 0-for-1 before being lifted for a pinch-hitter on Saturday, in the series finale on Sunday, but the decision is ultimately up to Martinez.
"I'll talk to him about it and find his thoughts," Gardenhire said.
After learning Martinez was going to be honored, Gardenhire decided to sing his praises.
"I love Victor, he's one one of the reasons I'm working for the Detroit Tigers instead of the old team [Twins] I used to work for," Gardenhire said. "Because when he was [with the Indians], he killed us. We couldn't get him out.
"He's been a great hitter. I'm just lucky to have him on my side and actually getting to manage this guy at the end of his career."
Martinez signed with the Indians as an amateur free agent in 1996. Once a highly touted switch-hitting catcher, he debuted in 2002 and spent parts of eight seasons with the Tribe until being traded to the Red Sox -- where Francona became his manager -- in '09.
"He's one of the nicest guys in the game and one of the most professional hitters, great teammate," Francona said. "You can pretty much write anything good and put my name next to it. That's how I feel."
Martinez made three of his five All-Star appearances with the Indians, and he hit .297 with 103 home runs, 191 doubles and 518 RBIs with the Tribe. He logged 101 RBIs in 2004, which is still a franchise record for a catcher. Martinez hit 25 home runs and helped lead the Tribe to the American League Championship Series in 2007.
"We had some good years here with guys like [CC Sabathia], Cliff Lee, Travis Hafner," Martinez said, smiling.
Martinez, 39, who entered Saturday with a career .295 average and an .815 OPS, was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat last August, which ultimately ended his 2017 season. However, the designated hitter has been praised by many for his comeback effort this season, as he entered Saturday hitting .249/.297/.352 in 127 games.
"One of the best switch-hitters you'll ever see," Francona said.
Casey Harrison is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland.