On Saturday, right fielder J.D. Martinez left a spring training game with an undisclosed right foot injury. On Sunday, the Detroit Tigers are not any closer to a prognosis for his return. Martinez had an MRI on his right foot, but will see a foot specialist before the team discloses any information on his diagnosis, reports Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. Martinez underwent x-rays on Saturday, which were negative.
Martinez left Saturday’s Grapefruit League game against the Miami Marlins after making a running catch in right field. He was walking gingerly as he left the field, but reporters noted that his gait had improved after checking in with head athletic trainer Kevin Rand. Martinez was spotted on crutches a short while later, but said he was feeling better. He was diagnosed with a right foot sprain, with further testing to come on Sunday.
The need for a second opinion is a bit worrying for Tigers fans, but not a harbinger of things to come. MRIs are difficult to read, especially in areas of the body like the foot, with so many structures in close proximity. If there is any ligament damage, it may not require surgery, though the degree of structural damage could vary widely. If treated conservatively, his return could range anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
The Tigers will be hoping for the best when it comes to Martinez. He has been a rock in the middle of their lineup over the past three seasons, hitting .299/.357/.540 with 83 home runs and 246 RBI. He has been worth 11.0 rWAR during that span despite missing chunks of two seasons, in 2014 and 2016. The Tigers were without Martinez for roughly six weeks in 2016, and primarily relied upon Mike Aviles and Steven Moya to fill the void in right field during his absence. Martinez’s return sparked one of the best moments of the Tigers’ 2016 season, but a hot finish could not push the Tigers into the postseason.
Unfortunately, the Tigers’ options behind Martinez have not improved much over the winter. Aviles is gone, but Moya did not show much promise in the limited playing time he was afforded in 2016. Tyler Collins and Mikie Mahtook could fill in as well, but neither is anywhere close to the hitter the Tigers would be losing in Martinez. Outfield prospects Christin Stewart and Mike Gerber could be in line to replace Martinez if he leaves via free agency next offseason, but are still too inexperienced to be relied upon for long stretches this season.