The Tigers are in need of stability in the rotation as the MLB trade deadline approaches, but part of that is getting Jordan Zimmermann and Daniel Norris back. Both are now on rehab assignments, though the latter isn’t progressing as rapidly as the team would’ve hoped. On the bright side, J.D. Martinez will start his rehab on Tuesday with the hope that he’ll return in the near future.
Norris was originally thought to need just one rehab start, but after he bombed that outing in Triple-A Toledo — to the tune of six earned runs and three walks on five hits in just 4 2/3 innings — he’s going to remain on assignment. Not only that, the organization is knocking his rehab location back to Double-A Erie. His strained right oblique may be healing but it’s not progressing as rapidly as previously thought, and the command just isn’t there either.
That was the opposite case for Zimmermann, who began his rehab stint in Toledo on Sunday. He went four scoreless innings and struck out two, scattering just four hits on 50 pitches. The recovering right neck strain doesn’t seem to be giving him an issue, but because he threw so few pitches he’ll undoubtedly need at least one more rehab start. Still, that he had an effortless outing is a good sign that he’ll return soon and the Tigers need him to be OK after being gone since July 2.
One other (tentative) positive to note is that Martinez is finally heading to the Mud Hens for a rehab stint. He’ll be eased into a game as a designated hitter, though his throwing and defense aren’t what worries him — it’s the hitting. He is fine throwing up to 150 feet and getting to the cut-off man, though throwing home might cause his elbow to flare up, according to George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press.
“My bat worries me more than my throwing,” Martinez told Sipple. “Timing-wise and arm-wise. I feel it puts more stress on my elbow hitting than it does throwing.
“My swing is brutal, but that’s what happens,” he added. “You’re around the game but the timing is different. I just know in the off-season I’ll take a month off, like six weeks off and then start hitting. Everything feels kind of foreign. Right now, it’s just getting the timing back. That’s going to be the hardest thing I feel like.”
Martinez admittedly wants to help a team that doesn’t believe they’re out of the playoff hunt. Defensively he won’t provide much of an upgrade to Mike Aviles, who has been subbing for the injured right fielder. What the team needs is his bat, and that’s the more difficult accomplishment at this point.
Without Martinez’s bat, the offense has been in mired in inconsistency and far too many dry spells. Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez have been stone cold, and the bottom of the lineup has been a relative black hole. Regardless of the pain that he says he’ll play through the rest of the season, Martinez is anxious to return.
Players push through pain for the duration of the season, so for him this is just a hurdle he’ll have to gut through and contribute as much as he can. The rest can wait. Martinez has been limited in his baseball activities since being placed on the disabled list on June 17 for a non-displaced right elbow fracture after crashing into the right field wall on a catch.