LAKELAND, Fla. -- Victor Martinez sent one ball after another over the outfield fence -- from both sides of the plate -- at Joker Marchant Stadium on Tuesday morning in his first batting practice since sustaining a left hamstring strain a week ago.It's increasingly likely that his season-opening duties will
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Victor Martinez sent one ball after another over the outfield fence -- from both sides of the plate -- at Joker Marchant Stadium on Tuesday morning in his first batting practice since sustaining a left hamstring strain a week ago.
It's increasingly likely that his season-opening duties will be limited to swings off the bench over two Interleague games in Miami, if the Tigers can get him ready in time.
"There's a good chance that would be the case," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Very good chance."
Seeing batting-practice pitches comprised a step in the right direction for Martinez, who was held back from swinging until taking soft-toss pitches on Monday. Still, he won't be cleared to return to Spring Training games in any capacity until he can resume running at full speed.
"He might go to the Minor League side [when he's ready]," Ausmus said, "but I don't think we would have him take at-bats until he was ready to run."
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The Tigers open their season with two Interleague games without the designated hitter in Miami. For Martinez to be in the starting lineup against the Marlins on April 5 or 6, he would not only have to be able to run bases, but he'd also have to be able to move laterally at first base. Miguel Cabrera would shift to third.
That was a possibility Ausmus discussed before the injury. Now, Ausmus said, "It seems more of a stretch."
Ausmus reiterated that the left hamstring strain, suffered as Martinez rounded first base following a hit on March 14 against the Mets, is considered mild. He acknowledged a season-opening stint on the disabled list is a possibility, but he downplayed the chances.
"I don't think it's probable," Ausmus said, "but it's possible."
A DL stint becomes complicated. The Tigers could backdate such a move up to 10 days, meaning Martinez would be eligible during the first weekend of the regular season against the Yankees at Comerica Park. To backdate a stint that far, Martinez would have to not play in a Major League Spring Training game over the final week-and-a-half of camp, limiting him to Minor League competition.
Even in that scenario, he'd have to miss at least the first five days of the regular season, meaning the Tigers wouldn't have Martinez available for their first game with a designated hitter -- the April 8 home opener against the Yankees.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.