2/13/2014 6:23 P.M. ET
Martinez arrives to camp early, ready to catch if asked
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
LAKELAND, Fla. -- If there was any doubt that Victor Martinez still considers himself a catcher, at least part-time, the sight of Detroit's likely cleanup hitter walking into the Tigers' clubhouse Thursday morning and unpacking new catching gear might well have erased it.
Tigers pitchers and catchers officially begin workouts Friday. Other Tigers position players aren't due in until full-squad workouts begin Tuesday. That seemingly would include Martinez, who's slated to serve as Detroit's regular designated hitter. His surgically repaired knees don't lend themselves toward catching on a regular basis anymore.
Martinez, though, played three games behind the plate last season, even though he didn't catch at all in Spring Training. Two of those starts happened in an Interleague series against the Mets, keeping his hot bat in the lineup in games when Detroit didn't have the DH slot available.
Martinez didn't catch at all last spring while working his way back into game condition following a lost 2012 season. He might not catch this spring, either, but he wants to be ready.
"Like I've said, I'm ready to do whatever they need me to do," Martinez said.
New Jersey native Porcello has Jeter's number
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Derek Jeter's farewell tour will potentially include seven games against the Tigers -- all of them in August, and three of them in Detroit. If he's healthy, that will more than likely give him at least one more chance against Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, two American League Cy Young Award winners he has hit well over the course of his career.
It'll also give him one more chance against his real Detroit nemesis: Rick Porcello.
Including postseason play, Jeter -- who didn't face the Tigers at all in his injury-shortened 2013 season -- is 16-for-44 for his career off Verlander, including 4-for-11 with a home run in 2012. He's 5-for-16 off Scherzer. He's just 2-for-18 off Porcello, the New Jersey native who grew up watching Jeter in a Yankees family even though Porcello trended more toward following the Mets.
"My parents were huge Yankee fans," he said.
Even in such a small sample size, Porcello's success goes against the consistency in Jeter's overall resume. It doesn't just stand out among Tigers pitchers; it stands out in the game.
Jeter has posted at least 18 plate appearances against 207 Major League pitchers in his career. Just six have held him to two hits, and none have held him to less. Porcello is one of just two active pitchers on the list. The other, Brandon League, has walked Jeter five times.
The retired pitchers on the list include future Hall of Famer John Smoltz, former Tigers reliever Al Levine, and retired relievers Tom Gordon and Paul Shuey.
By contrast, Porcello has held just four out of 55 hitters with at least 18 plate appearances against him to two hits or less. All of them, oddly enough, are shortstops -- Jeter, Alcides Escobar (1-for-21), Orlando Cabrera (2-for-18) and Elvis Andrus (2-for-17 with two walks).
Jeter's damage against Porcello consists of a two-run double in Game 4 of the 2011 AL Division Series, and a ground-ball single on Aug. 7, 2012. Otherwise, Porcello has not only gotten Jeter out, he has retired him largely on his intended pitches, inducing 13 ground-ball outs.
Porcello might not remember them all, but he remembers facing Jeter in Spring Training in 2009, when he pitched his way into the Tigers' rotation at age 20.
"Playing against Jeter was pretty cool," Porcello said. "It's definitely something I'm not going to forget, and I'm fortunate enough to get to compete against him."
Former Yankees Coke, Joba praise Jeter's character
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Phil Coke hasn't been a teammate of Derek Jeter's for four years, but Jeter still remembers Coke's father and says hello. That, Coke said, says plenty about Jeter's character.
As Jeter embarks on what will now be known as his farewell season, that's what Coke remembers.
"He's a class act," Coke said Thursday. "He's been accused of being a class act his whole big league career, even when he was younger. He's always been incredibly respectful to everybody. He's just a guy that, as a person, you'd like to model yourself after, because he's got so many qualities that he exhibits day-to-day.
"Personally speaking, he didn't ever have to say a word to me in my first big league camp in 2009. He'd always ask me how I was doing and joke around. I was the new guy and he took the time to have conversations with me. A guy of his caliber, the platform he's on socially and so on, he didn't have to talk to me, and he did. Every time my parents were in town, he went out of his way to make sure he said hi. That's an impressive thing to do for anybody. He's got all kinds of stuff on his plate. He doesn't have to take the time."
Coke is one of two Tigers relievers who played alongside Jeter. Joba Chamberlain did so more recently. It was Jeter's handling of the New York media and the New York spotlight that impressed him.
"He's always there, always at his locker, good or bad, answering questions," Chamberlain said. "It's two legends going down back-to-back years [Jeter and just-retired closer Mariano Rivera]. You're a fan of the game, and to see those two people that have accomplished so much to be done in back-to-back years, it's definitely going to be different.
"They led by example. They're not two big rah-rah guys, but they're always there, always accountable, whether Mo blew a save or whether Derek was 0-for-4, you could never tell. Watching them and how they handled that was remarkable, especially with what they've been through and how much they've accomplished and doing it in New York."
Jeter's decision, Chamberlain said, surprised him. The fact that Jeter got it out of the way now and didn't wait, however, wasn't a shock to him.
"You never think it's going to end," Chamberlain said. "And obviously he's getting older, but you see him every day, and I was with him for a long time. It'll definitely be weird not to see him at shortstop."