Victor Martinez' torn ACL leaves big question mark for Tigers

This is what we know: Tigers switch-hitting designated hitter Victor Martinez tore the ACL in his left knee while working out on his own in Orlando late last week. The Tigers say Martinez's right leg slipped while working on lateral movement, causing his left leg to absorb too much weight in a bad position and resulting in the tear. Martinez had an MRI in Lakeland yesterday, confirming the tear. He will see Dr. Richard Stedman in Colorado next week, and will almost certainly have surgery. (If the name Stedman sounds familiar, he is the same surgeon who operated on both Clete Thomas and Grady Sizemore in the past, though that was a different kind of procedure.)

Other questions that might have come to the mind of Tigers fans with a good memory: Could this injury have been related in any way to the knee problems Martinez had last August? Recall, he hurt his left knee while trying to make a move to home plate. However, he only missed a few days and continued to hit well. The Tigers say he was checked out after the conclusion of the Tigers' season and cleared for offseason workouts. They do not believe it was related; instead, this was just a fluke injury.

The Tigers will not know any timetables until after next week. No one will know more until Dr. Stedman takes a closer look and does what he has to do, if he has to. They do not rule out Martinez returning by the end of the year; however, they do not expect it.

I obviously don't have to tell you that today we received some pretty bad news. Judging by some reactions on BYB, on Facebook, on Twitter, and likely elsewhere, I might have to tell you the world is not ending due to the loss of a designated hitter. Yes, Martinez was an important member of the club and provided a leadership role. But no, the team's 2012 season is not lost because of one injury.

Here's a link to our transcription of GM Dave Dombrowski's and head athletic trainer Kevin Rand's teleconference for full versions of quotes, as I'll mostly be summarizing what they said in the rest of this post.

The Tigers have options. GM Dave Dombrowski mainly spoke about the internal ones today, though he noted as soon as the news of Martinez's injury stated to spread numerous agents were already dialing him up to sell their clients.

You've been in the game a long time, you need to be resilient. After you feel sorry for yourself for a day or so, you move on, start looking at all your alternatives. Look at a club like St Louis. They lose Adam Wainright and go on to win the world series. We're a good club. Players will step up. We'll still have a good club.

Dombrowski noted that the Tigers have the roster flexibility to deal with this blow, and there's certainly truth to that. Don't tell me you were looking forward to seeing Delmon Young in the outfield or Ryan Raburn in ... well, the field. (And don't tell me you actually believe the Tigers will cut bridges with those players or leave them on the bench.) Moving either of those players to a DH role keeps their bats in the lineup, but minimizes the poor fielding. Meanwhile, you open up room for a better fielder like Andy Dirks to have increased playing time in the field. Unquestionably, it's a net loss. But it's not like you're subbing a replacement-level player for Martinez, either.

That said, I still find it more likely the Tigers would like to add a bat to the club. For the sake of posturing and the relationship with his players, Dombrowski has to tell reporters he's happy with his team even though the injury came as a "sock to the stomach." Fortunately, if you're looking to replace a player in your lineup, you could have a lot bigger problems than losing your DH. Plenty of players can still hit well even if their fielding keeps them off the diamond.

Dombrowski declined to discuss whether Detroit has insurance on Martinez's contract -- worth about $13 million in 2012 -- however the popular idea in the media is that the Tigers may receive half of that figure back. That should help them in signing a replacement.

MLB Daily Dish and MLB Trade Rumors explore some possible names if Detroit looks outside the organization.

I wouldn't bet on Prince Fielder, due to many reasons. For one, Dombrowski said the team may not be ruling out a long-term contract, but he would expect something shorter term. Further, he does not see any likelihood that first baseman Miguel Cabrera would leap across the diamond to third. Finally, though lower on the list, Prince Fielder and his father, Cecil, reportedly do not have a good relationship and following Cecil's big footprints in Detroit might be uncomfortable. Another unrealistic possibility is Manny Ramirez. So just, don't even go there, OK?

That leaves us with Johnny Damon -- loves the Red Wings! -- Vladimir Guerrero, maybe even Carlos Pena. Personally, of that group the latter two both interest me most. Of course, this may also give the Tigers added incentive to sign Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, too.

As for the loss of Martinez off the field, Dombrowski thinks that too much can be made of that in the media and by fans.

No question he's a great teammate, great in the clubhouse, and well respected. You miss a player like him, but I think ... we have other people that can do a good job leading in that regard. the real leader in the clubhouse is our skipper. We'll be fine in that regard.

We'll explore the candidates in further detail in the coming hours or days. But for the TL;DR group, let me just summarize: This is not a pleasant day, but the Tigers can deal with this, and are fortunate to play in a division with some wriggle room. It makes a World Series run more difficult, but it was far too early to discuss that anyway. Keep coming back to BYB for more news and analysis!

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