Tigers place V-Mart on 15-day disabled list
Veteran catcher Santos' contract purchased from Triple-A Toledo
SEATTLE -- Miguel Cabrera's protection in the Tigers lineup is going to be out for a while. The team put Victor Martinez on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday after he aggravated his right groin strain Monday night against the Mariners.
It was a move the Tigers hoped to avoid. Even after they purchased the contract of Omir Santos from Triple-A Toledo to back up Alex Avila, they held off on announcing the other half of the move in case Martinez had a chance to return within two weeks. That hope soon vanished once Martinez woke up Tuesday and felt sore.
"There's a sore spot there today, the same sore spot that was there last night," said manager Jim Leyland. "[Head athletic trainer] Kevin [Rand] recommended that was the way to go."
Asked whether it felt better or worse than when he aggravated it Monday, Martinez simply replied, "It's sore."
He was understandably frustrated at the development in his first month with the Tigers.
"You're always hoping you get better the next day," Martinez said. "It is what it is. Now, it's about getting treatment and getting it better."
From a roster standpoint, the Tigers will replace Martinez with Santos. Avila will get the majority of the playing time, but Leyland said he doesn't think Avila will play every day.
Detroit's lineup, however, is going to take a little more juggling.
Martinez had shown strong signs in recent days of climbing out of a slow start. His second-inning single Monday was his fifth hit in 10 at-bats since Saturday, and it raised his average to .250 to go with two home runs and nine RBIs. Earlier in the at-bat, though, he had aggravated his groin strain moving on a pitch he took from Mariners starter Jason Vargas.
"I knew I was in trouble when I took the pitch," Martinez said. "That's what frustrates me the most. My thought was if I was going to make it sore again, it was going to be [while] running. I really put a charge into [being ready to swing at] the ball, and I held my swing."
Martinez jogged gingerly to first, then advanced slowly to second on Brennan Boesch's single. That was enough for Leyland to lift him for pinch-runner Casper Wells.
Leyland said he "kicked himself" for playing Martinez, in hindsight. However, Martinez said he felt great going into the game, having tested out his mobility as well as he could.
The Santos move was needed purely from a catching standpoint. The Tigers gained roster flexibility by having Martinez simultaneously serve as their primary designated hitter and second catcher, but they also put themselves in a position where they can't go long without him. After Avila and Martinez, the next catcher on the depth chart was utility man Don Kelly, who added catching duties to his resume this spring in case Detroit had an injury during a game or needed to make some late-game switches.
Under no circumstances, though, was Kelly seen as more than an insurance measure. That's why the Tigers signed Santos to a Minor League contract over the winter. The soon-to-be 30-year-old shared catching duties with the Mets in 2009, batting .260 with 14 doubles, seven home runs and 40 RBIs in 96 games before suffering an injury-shortened 2010 season.
Santos missed most of Spring Training with a broken toe, but returned to catching duties last week at Triple-A Toledo, where he went 6-for-14 with four RBIs in four games.
Lineupwise, Martinez's injury might have a small silver lining if it allows Magglio Ordonez to spend the next couple of weeks primarily at DH to ease the wear and tear on his surgically repaired right ankle. Ordonez returned over the weekend after missing several days with fluid in the ankle, but Leyland indicated he'd need more rest from time to time.
Ordonez was not in Tuesday's starting lineup.
"When Magglio is right, he'll be in the lineup," Leyland said. "You can take that to the bank. It's just a matter of how much I can push it and when you start pushing it."
The other impact will be in the corner outfield spots, where Ryan Raburn and Brennan Boesch will have everyday roles. That was going to be a squeeze with Ordonez back; Leyland moved Raburn to second base Monday night for the first time since last August in order to start Martinez and Ordonez. Boesch's solid April hitting, including two run-scoring hits Monday, has earned him a regular role again after making the team as essentially a fourth outfielder out of Spring Training.
That said, neither Raburn nor Boesch have the track record of Martinez, whose run production averages out to more than 100 RBIs over the course of a full season. He has topped 130 games only once since 2008, but when he plays, he produces, including a .299 career batting average and .836 OPS.