Torii Hunter has been out of the Tigers' lineup since June 16 due to a tight left hamstring but was initially expected to return after a couple days of rest and treatment. "We don't expect, at this point, that it'll be anything long term," Ausmus said at the time. "We'll see how it is tomorrow. (Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand) was more optimistic than pessimistic."
But that estimated date of return was moved up to around June 21-22, because Hunter continued to experience lingering tightness. Hunter was conducting running drills at Cleveland on Friday at an 80 percent capacity, as well as partaking in batting practice, and MLB's Jason Beck reported that Hunter plans to try for full speed on Saturday.
Although Hunter is available to pinch hit at this point and was available for Friday night's game, Saturday morning Hunter told Beck that he would likely remain out of the lineup until Monday. In the meantime J.D. Martinez will continue to occupy right field.
Martinez has been on a hot streak at the plate, and Ausmus and Hunter are reluctant to take him out of the lineup. "Keep him in there, keep him hot," Hunter told Beck. "Always play the hot hand. If I was the manager, that's what I would do."
Hunter has been in a slump, hitting .266 on the season, and his ability to get on base has dropped to .290. Ordinarily known for his defensive abilities in the right corner, Hunter has made several miscues, which have cost the Tigers runs.
While Martinez has made a few mistakes of his own while occupying right field, he's compensated for that at the plate in a significant way by putting up a batting line of .447/.436/1.000, which gives him a robust 1.436 OPS. He's had 17 hits, five doubles, four home runs (three, which occurred in the last three days) and 11 RBI in that time.
"If it's going to bring a ring, you keep that sucker in there," Hunter told Beck. "It's no big deal. Seen it. Done it. Been there. I'm about winning. Even when I come back, hopefully he stays in there."