DETROIT -- Victor Martinez is out of the lineup for the fourth consecutive game and Justin Verlander will not be making his next start. Kyle Lobstein will get his second major league start of the 2015 season for the Detroit Tigers, and Yoenis Cespedes is serving as the team's designated hitter today.
Martinez hasn't started since the road game against the Cleveland Indians on April 12. He's struck out five times in eight games, a number he didn't reach until May 6 last season and that was with an extra week of playing time. Available as a pinch hitter during the Pittsburgh Pirates series, Martinez had two at-bats and struck out both times.
Friday morning manager Brad Ausmus said that the decision to leave Martinez out of the lineup was just to give him another day off, and that he would be back in the lineup on Saturday -- although he hinted that Martinez's knee needs rest. He'll also be available as a pinch hitter today.
"Off day. He'll be back in there tomorrow," Ausmus said. "I just wanted to give him one more day off the left side. The left side's the weaker side. Had a day off Wednesday, a day off Thursday -- give him a day off today, then we have a couple of lefties. He'll back in there. Hopefully these three days will help that (knee) calm down."
Martinez has struggled to start the 2015 season, hitting .261/.414/.261 with just three RBI, eight walks (three intentional), five strikeouts, and no extra-base hits or home runs. He's also grounded into two double plays in 29 plate appearances so far. Last year after eight game Martinez was hitting .300/.333/.533 with a double, two home runs, four RBI, three walks (one intentional). He had struck out just once had stolen a base.
Martinez took part in batting practice and smoked a home run, but he hit from the right side when he did it. During an at-bat in the final game of the Indians series, Martinez awkwardly swung through a pitch and he was taken out of the game as a precaution. While he hasn't looked his best to start with, it's become increasingly clear from Martinez's body language during at-bats that he's not comfortable or feeling 100 percent. Whether Martinez's knee will continue to give him issues has yet to be determined, but he's not himself lately.
On the pitching side, Verlander's rehab is progressing, but not to the point where the Tigers are going to allow him to start just yet. He'll miss his next start and left-handed pitcher Kyle Lobstein will get the start instead. Ausmus said the team hasn't decided whether Verlander will need a rehab start yet, and they'll address that at a later date. Also, Joe Nathan threw a light bullpen, and Bruce Rondon will need minor league starts before he's able to pitch in Detroit again.
"(Rondon) was gonna do back-to-back (games) and then (the injury) flared up that day," Ausmus said. "He was supposed to pitch (his) second of two (games). So he would definitely have to pitch in games and go back-to-back, see how he responds."
With Martinez out of the lineup, Ausmus moved Cespedes to the DH role, putting Rajai Davis in left field, with Anthony Gose starting in center. While moving Cespedes to DH wasn't done with the intent to start Davis, it did open the opportunity, Ausmus said.
As to why Cespedes is DH'ing over Nick Castellanos when Cespedes is the better defender rather than Davis, Ausmus said it was to "give the older guy the day (off)." Ausmus doesn't anticipate that starting Davis in left will vastly change the outfield.
"Not a ton, probably have a tick more speed with Rajai out there, although Cespedes runs very well," he said. "I wouldn't say it changes it a lot."
- Anthony Gose, CF
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B
- J.D. Martinez, RF
- Yoenis Cespedes, DH
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Alex Avila, C
- Jose Iglesias, SS
- Rajai Davis, LF