This is why we can’t have nice things. Victor Martinez had surgery in October to repair a hernia that bothered him throughout last season, general manager Al Avila told reporters on Thursday. According to Avila, Martinez is healthy following the procedure, and should be ready to go when the Tigers report to Lakeland, Fla. for spring training next month.
Despite the injury, the 38-year-old designated hitter had a bounce-back season in 2016, hitting .289/.351/.476 with 27 home runs and 86 RBI. His WAR total was limited by his awful baserunning and a harsh positional adjustment for DHs, but he managed a healthy 120 wRC+ in 154 games. There is no clear point in which the injury may have started to affect him, as Martinez offered consistent production throughout most of the year. Even after his numbers sunk following a rough stretch in late August, he finished the season strong, compiling a .950 OPS in the final two weeks of the regular season.
According to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News, Martinez’s injury was “not a full sports hernia.” Still, the injury is similar to ones suffered by Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera over the past couple years. It involves tearing of the lower abdominal muscles near the inguinal ligament at the top of the pelvis. While normal recovery from this surgery only takes a few months, rehab times are a bit longer for high-level athletes. We saw how limited both Verlander and Cabrera were after their respective surgeries. Verlander was candid with the media after his operation, telling reporters “I know Torii (Hunter) is somebody that’s had a similar surgery, and he said it took a year to be back the way he should have been.”
Fortunately for the Tigers, Martinez’s surgery occurred early enough in the offseason that he should avoid too many early season woes. Spring training games will start approximately five months after his operation, with Opening Day coming nearly six months post-op. Still, with how limited the Tigers’ stars were — not to mention Martinez’s lengthy injury history — this is a major cause for concern.
Martinez’s solid 2016 numbers came on the heels of an injury-riddled 2015. He had knee surgery following an injury in February, then struggled out of the gate. While Martinez enjoyed a short hot streak towards the end of the first half, he wilted following the All-Star break, and finished the year with a .667 OPS in 485 plate appearances.