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V-Mart an option to catch during AL play

MLB.com

SAN DIEGO -- The Tigers bid farewell to their early bout of Interleague Play by putting Victor Martinez behind the plate for the second time this week on Sunday. However, the return of the designated-hitter slot might not mean the end of Martinez's catching days.

"It definitely would be an option," manager Brad Ausmus said, "probably a little bit more [than it was before]."

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SAN DIEGO -- The Tigers bid farewell to their early bout of Interleague Play by putting Victor Martinez behind the plate for the second time this week on Sunday. However, the return of the designated-hitter slot might not mean the end of Martinez's catching days.

"It definitely would be an option," manager Brad Ausmus said, "probably a little bit more [than it was before]."

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It would not be a regular option. As a 35-year-old with a history of knee problems on a team with a vested interest in keeping his bat in the lineup, Martinez isn't going to be any more than an occasional catcher.

"Again, I don't want Victor behind home plate -- from an age and health standpoint -- on a regular basis," Ausmus said. "But I think, assuming everything goes well, it certainly is something I would consider. …

"There's not a game I'm looking at and saying, 'Hey, Victor should catch this game.' But it may arise where, down the road, I decide or the coaching staff and I decide that putting Victor back behind the plate for a day might help us."

It's enough of a consideration that Martinez will probably catch bullpen sessions on occasion in the meantime to keep his catching skills fresh.

The Tigers have five more regular-season games in National League parks, but none for another three months. They head to Arizona for three games July 21-23, and they have what is now an annual home-and-home four-game series against the Pirates, including Aug. 11-12 in Pittsburgh.

In the meantime, they have Alex Avila struggling to break out of a slow start at the plate. His eighth-inning single Saturday night ended an 0-for-9 slump in which he struck out eight times. He entered Sunday batting 3-for-23 on the season with 14 strikeouts in 28 plate appearances.

"He's scuffled a little bit in terms of making good contact," Ausmus said. "Again, though, it's been a choppy schedule. He sat out a few games on this trip, and it's tougher for a hitter to get into a rhythm [that way]. He's caught three games in the last [week] and had two complete off-days where he didn't even touch a ball or a bat."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.

Detroit Tigers, Victor Martinez