LAKELAND, Fla. -- Victor Martinez decided to have a little fun while the Tigers took batting practice Thursday morning at Joker Marchant Stadium. After taking a couple of ground balls at first base, the 39-year-old jogged over to shortstop, where he alternated grounders with Jose Iglesias and showed off some
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Victor Martinez decided to have a little fun while the Tigers took batting practice Thursday morning at Joker Marchant Stadium. After taking a couple of ground balls at first base, the 39-year-old jogged over to shortstop, where he alternated grounders with Jose Iglesias and showed off some glovework from his younger days, and maybe a few steps of range.
Once Martinez stepped to the plate for his first at-bat against Braves starter Sean Newcomb, the designated hitter took an easy trip around the bases. His right-handed drive off the lefty cleared the left-field fence, giving the Tigers back-to-back second-inning homers following Nicholas Castellanos' drive. Those homers constituted Detroit's offense in a 5-2 loss to Atlanta.
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Not only was it Martinez's first home run of the spring, but it was his first extra-base hit after a pair of singles in early games. A week into the Tigers' Grapefruit League schedule, he's 3-for-10 with neither a walk nor a strikeout.
More important than the numbers, though, has been the contact and the at-bats. Martinez worked a full count against Newcomb in his second-inning trip to the plate before turning on a fastball that registered at 93 mph on the Joker Marchant Stadium radar gun. He had a hard-hit comebacker for an out his second and final time up.
"He's excited about where he's at," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He feels good, and that's always important for a baseball player. When you feel good, your body lets you do some things and our goal is to keep that feeling. Right now, the ball's going off his bat."
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Of course, it's early. The Tigers have more than three weeks of games to go before they break camp and head north to Detroit, which provides time for the club to figure out what kind of hitter it has in Martinez, and how he can hold up after two episodes of an accelerated heartbeat shortened his 2017 season. What they've learned so far is that Martinez at least has his swing and some legs behind it. Even that was an unknown when camp began, certainly for the Tigers and maybe to a lesser extent for Martinez, who hadn't seen live pitching since last August.
Now, Martinez wants at-bats to try to keep it going. That, too, is a sign of his health. When he has felt good in past springs, he has wanted a steady diet of at-bats, usually more than veteran players receive in a typical Spring Training.
"He's really excited to get at-bats," Gardenhire said. "He wants to play every one of these home games, which is good. That's a good thing."
The Tigers, who just completed a three-game road trip on the Gulf side of the state, are in Lakeland through Saturday. They'll have an overnight trip to West Palm Beach and Port St. Lucie to face the Nationals and Mets on Sunday and Monday, then return to Lakeland for home games March 6-7.
Martinez, who lives near Orlando, will have a chance to catch up on road games down the stretch; the Tigers have three games in a nine-day span March 15-23 against the Braves at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.
"He wants at-bats right now," Gardenhire repeated. "He feels good, he's doing his work, and hopefully we can keep that. That's a big thing for us. Yeah, I like the way he's swinging."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.