KANSAS CITY -- The competition in the American League Central was going to be fierce in any case. But the whole situation became more difficult for the Detroit Tigers on Thursday night.The Tigers lost right fielder J.D. Martinez when he suffered a non-displaced fracture of his right elbow hitting a
KANSAS CITY -- The competition in the American League Central was going to be fierce in any case. But the whole situation became more difficult for the Detroit Tigers on Thursday night.
The Tigers lost right fielder J.D. Martinez when he suffered a non-displaced fracture of his right elbow hitting a wall while chasing a fly ball in the right-field corner at Kauffman Stadium in the second inning. According to Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, Martinez is expected to be out four to six weeks.
The good news for the Tigers is that they reacted to this injury the way they would hope to react; coming from behind, staging a rare, sustained offense against the Kansas City bullpen and eventually emerging with a 10-4 victory. The Tigers hit six home runs, with Victor Martinez accounting for three.
The Tigers will call up prospect Steven Moya to take over for Martinez in right field. "You lose a guy who hit almost 40 homers [in 2015] and drove in over 100, it stings," Ausmus said. "But Moya, he's going to get an opportunity to play some. He comes up here and swings the bat the way he swung it down in [Triple-A] Toledo, maybe we don't miss a beat.
"He's the guy that's doing the best down there, quite frankly. Right field's his natural position and he's swung the bat well in Toledo. He's going to get some at-bats and hopefully he's going to take advantage of it -- for us and for himself."
On the play in which the injury occurred, Martinez could not reach the ball, hit by Kansas City right fielder Paulo Orlando and it went for a triple. Martinez, running hard, ran into the wall in foul territory. He put up his right arm to brace himself and in the process suffered the injury to his elbow.
X-rays revealed the fracture. Martinez will undergo a CT scan on Friday to confirm the diagnosis.
The Tigers demonstrated considerable resilience in the face of this adversity. Victor Martinez and his three home runs made an obvious and immense difference. Victor Martinez had one other three-home run game in his career, on July 16, 2004 in Seattle. What did Martinez remember about that day?
"Same as today, one left-handed, two right-handed," he said with a smile. "The only difference in that game was that I was 5-for-5 with seven RBIs. What else you want to know?"
Going into this game, the Tigers had been short-handed in the outfield with center fielder Cameron Maybin out with what was described as right quad tightness. They finished the game with Justin Upton in left, and with two utility players, Andrew Romine and Mike Aviles, in center and right.
J.D. Martinez has been a reliable run producer for the Tigers for nearly 2 1/2 seasons. He was on a tear just before this injury, going 15-for-27 during a seven-game hitting streak. In part because of Victor Martinez's revival at the plate, the Tigers once again had an imposing offense.
"They're dangerous," Royals manager Ned Yost said of the Tigers before Thursday night's game. "They don't have a lot of holes in their lineup. They don't have a lot of places where you can catch your breath. It's a very potent group. These guys are swinging the bats better than the last time we saw them [in April]. They can put a lot of offense on the board and they can get hot, especially the last couple of weeks."
The Tigers hope that they can still be considered dangerous without J.D. Martinez for the short-term future. But they know that injuries to key personnel are part of the baseball landscape.
"In this game, it's a long season, it's a grueling season," said second baseman Ian Kinsler. "Guys get hurt, it's part of the game. We obviously all feel bad for J.D. It looked innocent. It looked like he was just chasing after a ball and the wall got in his way. Next thing you know, he has a broken elbow.
"But at the same time, we have to move on and be ready for [Friday night's game]. That's just the way sports work. You can't dwell over injury. He'll be back, eventually, to help us. Hopefully, he recovers quickly."
The Tigers lost one of their best hitters Thursday night. But rather than indulging in self-pity, they put on a remarkable hitting exhibition against a very good bullpen in a pitcher-friendly park.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com.