In Victor Martinez's first season back after missing all of 2012 with a severe knee injury, the Detroit Tigers' DH tipped his toes into the defensive waters, making 11 regular season starts at first base and three at his original position, catcher.
But the three starts as a backstop didn't happen until well into the 2013 season, Martinez making his first appearance behind the plate during a late August series against the New York Mets. If new manager Brad Ausmus has his way, Martinez will wade deeper into the defensive waters. He will definitely see more action on the field far earlier in the 2014 season, especially at catcher.
During a Q & A session, Ausmus laid out his interleague plans for the Tigers' 35-year old DH. The current scenario is to start him at catcher when the Tigers play in NL parks, with some first base also on tap.
After the new year, Ausmus specifically asked Martinez if he was fine with the plan to see more action behind the plate and to report to spring training early.
"I called Victor in early January and asked him about catching. He was thrilled about it. But there is a reason why I asked him to come down early. We play 10 games in National League parks this year."
"I wouldn't want to leave it to the first week of the season and ask Victor to put on his catching gear. I was hoping he'd be open to the idea."
"Not only open, but excited about it."
The second week of the season has the Tigers taking their first west coast trip of 2014, and you can expect to see Martinez behind the plate when the Tigers take on the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. Ausmus did say he would not use Martinez as his catcher in all five games of the interleague road swing, but admitted the veteran switch-hitter 'gives us another option' behind the plate ... a much better hitting option than Alex Avila and Bryan Holaday.
Shaking off a year's rust led to Martinez's miserable start to the 2013 season, his batting average hovering as low as .225 in late June. But a torrid second half (.361/.413 /.500) allowed Martinez to end 2013 with a very respectable line of .301/.355/.430 with 14 home runs and 83 RBIs.
As for Martinez playing 1st base in NL games? Ausmus has plans there as well, with Miguel Cabrera giving his full approval.
"It’s been discussed. I actually even mentioned it to Miggy. Miggy is a team guy and he said, ‘Listen, I still have two gloves. Whatever you need.’"