That January day when we learned of Victor Martinez's knee injury was a worrisome one. The Tigers were coming off their first Central Division title, and optimism about the upcoming season was easy to find. But when you take one of the best batters out of the middle of the lineup, there's a big hole to replace.
We know today that the big but costly Prince Fielder was able to step in fine, and the season turned out well enough with a World Series appearance. Yet all year long, you couldn't help but wonder what the Tigers' lineup would have been like with Martinez in it, too. Now, we'll find out.
In 2011, Martinez has an incredible, though hard to duplicate, first season with the Tigers. He batted a career-best .330 with a .380 on-base percentage. His power was off a bit, but hitting behind Miguel Cabrera he took care of situational hitting. He excelled at two-strike batting, too. Martinez also led the team in the percentage of runners on base driven in. Put him into the middle of the lineup with Cabrera and Fielder, and you've got a recipe for disaster for opposing pitchers.
But first we have to find out what kind of condition Martinez is in. We'll learn that during the next six weeks or so of spring training.
So far the answer seems positive. Well, mostly.
"I almost forgot a little bit how to get dressed," Martinez told Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press: "How to put on my socks."
So long as he's still good with the bat, right?
(He) looks good and, from what they tell me, the ball is jumping off his bat," Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski told MLB.com.
Unless you live in Lakeland, you'll have to take his word for that for now. But what we do know for sure is that the Tigers are going to take it easy to him as he gets back up to speed.
"If there are days where he gets a little sore, we may have to back off," manager Jim Leyland told MLB.com. "So we'll just play that by ear."
In all likelihood, Martinez should be back to the lineup and producing at a fine clip. But taking nothing for granted, Martinez's health will be one of the top topics to follow during the 2013 spring training in Lakeland.