Victor Martinez hadn’t caught for more than two years.
But that didn’t stop Tigers manager Jim Leyland from putting Martinez behind the plate in two of the three games the Tigers had on the road against the New York Mets last weekend.
Being that the Mets are in the National League and don’t use the designated hitter, Leyland was pushed into a corner. If he wanted to keep Martinez’s hot bat in the lineup, he’d have to be at catcher.
Martinez didn’t look too rusty behind the plate, but he wasn’t flawless either. Leyland knew he was giving up a lot defensively; evidently Martinez’s offensive production outweighed the defensive weakness.
Prior to Sunday’s game against New York, his last game of catching came on Aug. 4, 2011. And even at that time, before he had a torn ACL, knee problems, and missed the entire 2012 season, he was an average defender. He never had the defensive skills of, say, Pudge Rodriguez. He got by being an average defender because his offensive production was so valuable.
And so, with Alex Avila still on the disabled list, Brayan Pena struggling at the plate, Leyland went with Martinez. Considering that teams have seemed to be running all over the Tigers with Avila or Pena, they weren’t losing much defensive-wise. Sure the Mets did plenty of running, but two series ago the Royals practically put on a base-stealing clinic against the Tigers, and Martinez was the DH.
This isn’t the first time the Tigers have sacrificed defense for offensive production either. In last year’s playoffs, an injured Delmon Young played left field and he could barely even throw the ball to second base from the outfield.
When asked whether Leyland would use Martinez again at catcher, he didn’t say no. He didn’t say yes, but the Tigers have a series late in the year with the National League Miami Marlins on the road, and you can be sure that Leyland will utilize Martinez’s bat if need be.
And hey — if the Tigers still happen to be playing when the World Series rolls around, Martinez would be a nice option at catcher for those road games.