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Ausmus weighing options for slumping V-Mart

Martinez has first multi-hit game since Aug. 20 in win over Indians

DETROIT -- The coming games will tell if Saturday's two-hit performance in a 6-0 win over the Indians was a slump-buster for Victor Martinez, whose last couple weeks have been a deep, prolonged funk. But it was likely enough to hold off manager Brad Ausmus on making any changes.

Earlier Saturday, Ausmus downplayed the possibility of moving Martinez any further down in the lineup than fifth, where he was bumped last weekend in favor of J.D. Martinez batting cleanup. The next option was some time out of the lineup to rest.

"He can't really be dropped much farther," Ausmus said Saturday afternoon. "We need his production. But if I think he needs a day or two, then we'll cross that bridge when we get there."

With two line drive singles and two deep fly outs, Martinez likely held off any plans of that. Both singles were opposite-field liners off right-handers after falling under .200 against righties for the season.

"He looked good," Ausmus said after Detroit's win. "He put the barrel on it four times, got a couple hits, and I'm hoping it's the start of something good for Vic the rest of the way."

It was Martinez's first multi-hit game since Aug. 20. He had been 6-for-50 since then. He still hasn't had an extra-base hit or an RBI in that stretch, the latter being the longest drought of his career. The Tigers can put anyone at designated hitter, obviously, but they have a short bench even with September callups. They could play all four outfielders, DH'ing one, or they could start Alex Avila or James McCann there.

Detroit will have more options after Triple-A Toledo's season ends on Monday. Among the potential positional callups are top prospect Steven Moya, who hit his 20th home run for the Mud Hens Friday night and is batting .269 (36-for-134) with five homers and 19 RBIs since Aug. 1, despite a .240 average on the season. Jefry Marte, who filled in surprisingly well for Cabrera while he was on the disabled list in July and August, is also available to be recalled, as is Double-A Erie All-Star outfielder Wynton Bernard.

The Tigers remain mum on how many more players will be called up, but Ausmus has mentioned his short bench and its effect on his late-game moves in recent days. He has not talked about it in terms of resting players, but the impact is apparent.

Martinez's knee, which underwent surgery for a meniscus tear in February, isn't bothering him from a pain standpoint, Ausmus said last week, but he hasn't looked right at the plate since coming back from it.

There's also some bad luck on hard-hit balls in play, Ausmus argued, reflected in part by a 75-point drop in his batting average on balls put in play that tracks differently than drops in batting average or OPS. Still, he had been among the leaders in hard-hit percentage last year, and his rate has dropped from 39 percent last year to 29 percent this season, according to Fangraphs. His soft-hit ball percentage has nearly doubled in the same timeframe.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.
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