8/29/2013 7:38 P.M. ET
With turnaround, Martinez nearing .300 season
By Jason Beck and Bobby Nightengale / MLB.com
DETROIT -- The batting average says a lot about Victor Martinez's season. He was hitting .225 on June 28, .270 on July 28, and is now -- after going 3-for-5 in Thursday's 7-6 win over the A's -- hitting .297. He's a few hits away from turning what looked like a disastrous year that showed his age into his fourth consecutive .300 season, and making a legitimate argument for AL Comeback Player of the Year consideration alongside Mariano Rivera.
The stats, however, don't say everything. Martinez's approach at the plate says the rest.
On Thursday, with the Tigers down by three in the ninth, Martinez smacked a two-out RBI single, setting up Torii Hunter's walk-off home run. He began the crucial at-bat 0-2.
On Wednesday, a night that the Tigers were out of it early, Martinez was focused throughout. He had three singles, including an eighth-inning ground ball through the right side that helped fuel a three-run inning.
"If you watch this game, I think it describes Victor Martinez," manager Jim Leyland said after the loss. "We're way behind, obviously we're not going to win the game, and he's grinding out his at-bats like the winning run is on third base in the seventh game of the World Series. And that's why we love Victor Martinez, and that's why Victor Martinez is a great hitter.
"I'm very proud of him. He could've cashed it in. He could've even asked to come out, get a little break from his legs even though he's a DH. But he was grinding his at-bats out right to the end."
Martinez leads the Major Leagues with 60 hits since the All-Star break, six more than Arizona's Martin Prado. He also has more games with three or more hits (18) this season than anyone in baseball. Twelve of those 18 three-hit games have come since July 1.
"I'm not going to lie, it feels good," Martinez said. "I've been on both sides, really struggling and nothing coming out of it. Now, praise God, I'm finally finding holes when I'm making contact. You just feel great."
The turnaround is shaping up to be an even bigger second-half comeback by a Tigers hitter than Magglio Ordonez's late-season charge in 2009. Ordonez headed into the All-Star break that year batting .260 with a .673 OPS, then hit .375 with a .978 OPS from then on out, including a .439 tear after Sept. 1. Martinez had a lower average (.258) going into the break, but a higher OPS (.693). Entering Thursday, he was hitting .377 over the season's second half.
Speedy Iglesias working on baserunning skills
DETROIT -- The basepaths at Comerica Park were largely deserted Wednesday afternoon when Jeff Cox was working with Jose Iglesias. It wasn't as animated as the Spring Training sessions Cox had with Austin Jackson, when Cox would slide into first base to show a technique, but he was still getting his point across: Baserunning is a fundamental skill, and to some degree, it's a mindset.
A few hours later, Iglesias had stolen his first base as a Tiger, swiping second on Kurt Suzuki, whose overthrow into center field allowed Iglesias to take third.
"We're going to give him some opportunities to steal bases," manager Jim Leyland said, "but we'll see how that plays out. But he's a very good runner. He's a better runner than I thought he was when we acquired him. I didn't know he was as fast as he is."
The Tigers hired Cox, a longtime coach most recently with the White Sox, as a baserunning consultant this year. He has worked mostly with Jackson, but has also taken time with Andy Dirks and Hernan Perez during his periodic stops in Detroit.
In Iglesias, he not only has a pupil eager to learn, he has a young player with the potential to put his speed to good use on the bases. He has 29 infield hits, second only to Ichiro Suzuki among American League players, and he has grounded into only one double play in 15 chances this year.
"When you've got 30 infield hits, you've done one thing: You've run them out hard," Leyland said.
It also means a quick start out of the batter's box.
"He's a very instinctive, smart player," Leyland said. "He's really good. He'll make some adjustments at the plate over the year, and I think he'll be a good offensive player. He's potentially a very, very good player for a long time."
Tuiasosopo having up-and-down August
DETROIT -- Matt Tuiasosopo made the Tigers roster as a lefty-killer and situational starter off the bench. In August, he has as many hits (four) in eight at-bats off of right-handed pitching as he does in 27 at-bats off of lefties. That's the kind of odd month that it has been for him.
He has had strong months with a hint of power, and he had a four-homer July with just a .222 average. August, however, has been a different kind of month for him. Manager Jim Leyland doesn't believe he's in a slump, but said he fell into a trap of trying to pull too many pitches off A's lefty Tommy Milone on Tuesday.
Tuiasosopo bounced back Wednesday with an opposite-field line drive single off another tough A's lefty, Brett Anderson.
Some left-handed hitters will see things against a lefty, even in their struggles against them, that help them in their approach when they face a righty. Tuiasosopo doesn't see much difference in his approaches, but said facing a right-hander will sometimes force him to keep his foot in at the plate instead of opening up too soon to swing.
Lefties Alvarez, Coke will be among callups
DETROIT -- The Tigers made a roster move before Thursday's game, because they needed a fresh arm in the bullpen, calling up Luke Putkonen and sending Jose Alvarez to Triple-A. In three days that won't be necessary, when the active roster expands to 40 players on Sunday.
The Tigers have announced that left-handers Phil Coke and Alvarez as well as catcher Bryan Holaday will be added to the team in September, but manager Jim Leyland said there will be more players added on Sunday and after Triple-A Toledo's season ends on Monday.
"I think we're pretty much settled," Leyland said. "But the reason we're not going to have any announcement is because they are going to be spaced [out during the week]."
Historically, Leyland has preferred to call up players that he knows he will use in games, rather than prospects who will only gain experience by sitting.
"In our case, you might have an extra pitcher that gives you a little more availability in the bullpen," Leyland said. "You might have an extra player, in our case, because we have to run possibly for [Miguel] Cabrera or something. Nothing sophisticated about it, it just is what it is."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.