7/4/2014 12:23 A.M. ET
V-Mart goes deep in return to Tigers' lineup
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus had two lineups ready for Thursday's series opener against the Rays. One had Victor Martinez as the designated hitter and J.D. Martinez in left field. The other had Victor Martinez out and Rajai Davis in his place.
Ausmus wanted to see how Martinez looked in batting practice before deciding which lineup. Martinez's last swing pretty much made up his mind.
"I think the last swing he took in batting practice, he hit the ball about 12 rows deep in the left-center field bleachers," Ausmus said. "He certainly looked fine."
Said Martinez: "He told me, 'You can play now.'"
His next time at the plate, he didn't hit the ball quite as deep, but his two-run home run in the first inning wasn't far off. It was a no-doubt drive that cleared the visiting bullpen in left-center field, landing a few rows into the seats.
After three days out of the lineup with soreness in his left side, Martinez picked up where he left off, turning on Erik Bedard's 88-mph fastball for his 21st home run of the year.
"It feels great to be back on the field," Martinez said. "Especially when you do something to help the team, it feels even better."
Considering he entered Thursday with a .364 career average against the Rays -- his highest mark against any American League opponent -- to go with 21 doubles, nine homers, 47 RBIs and a .940 OPS in 269 career at-bats, his return was especially welcome, even after the Tigers swept the A's without him.
Even with the time off, Martinez stood fourth among AL hitters in home runs and batting average. His 2-for-4 performance bumped his average to .327, pushing him past Seattle's Robinson Cano and into third behind Jose Altuve and Adrian Beltre. His .989 OPS, meanwhile, trails only Mike Trout.
"He's arguably the best hitter in the game right now," Max Scherzer said. "Do we really need to have a conversation whether he deserves to be in the All-Star Game? He's absolutely a nightmare at the plate right now for other pitchers. Every at-bat, he's grinding out."
He showed no difference Thursday in approach. After the game, he felt little difference.
"I feel really good," Martinez said. "We'll see how I feel tomorrow."
How he feels over the days after that could well determine how comfortable he feels taking part in the All-Star Game -- if he makes the team. Even with his numbers, he's not assuming he makes the team. Nelson Cruz is expected to win the fan balloting at DH, leaving Martinez's spot on the bench up to voting among players.
He has one fan in his corner. His nine-year-old son, Victor Jose, is hoping he makes it so they can go.
"Believe it or not, man, last year watching the Home Run Derby, he told me these words: 'Daddy, you better make it next year, because I don't want to sit my butt on the couch watching the Home Run Derby on TV again,'" Martinez said. "I'm like, 'Really? It's that easy, kid?' We'll see what happens."
Krol set to begin rehab assignment
DETROIT -- Ian Krol began his first full season of professional baseball in the Midwest League four years ago, living at home in Naperville, Ill., and commuting to low Class A Kane County as an Oakland A's prospect. Four seasons and two trades later, the lefty reliever is headed back to the Midwest League for a Minor League rehab assignment on his way back to the Tigers' bullpen next week.
After just under two weeks on the 15-day disabled list with what he called a dead arm but what the Tigers classified as shoulder inflammation, Krol will join low Class A West Michigan for two relief appearances.
Krol will pitch an inning on Friday night. If all goes well and his arm feels fine, he'll pitch again Sunday afternoon before rejoining the Tigers. He's eligible to be activated from the DL on Monday, but the Tigers are off, so the best-case scenario is for him to return for Tuesday's series opener against the Dodgers.
Krol said Thursday is arm is feeling fine after throwing a second bullpen session Wednesday.
Ausmus OK with Tigers hitting in Home Run Derby
DETROIT -- While Miguel Cabrera waits to decide whether he'll take part in the Home Run Derby, and Victor Martinez waits to see whether he'll make the All-Star team to be around for the Derby, their manager said he has no problem with any of his players taking their hacks at the outfield seats at Target Field.
Brad Ausmus knows the theory that a Home Run Derby can mess with a hitter's swing, but he doesn't buy it.
"I find it hard to believe that one round of batting practice is going to ruin your swing for the next three months," Ausmus said. "I guess if you advance, it's more."
That said, Ausmus admitted, "You can swing a little bit different if you're trying to only hit home runs."
Cabrera said earlier this week that he had heard from American League Derby captain Jose Bautista asking if he wanted to take part. He said he'd like to see Martinez take part in it. But while Cabrera is a lock to make the All-Star team, Martinez is going to have to wait until the reserves are announced Sunday evening before he knows whether he's going.
• Cabrera was presented Thursday with his trophy for winning Tiger of the Year last season, his fourth such award since becoming a Tiger in 2008. Members of the Detroit Chapter of Baseball Writers Association presented him with the trophy after voting him for the award last fall.
• Triple-A Toledo third baseman Mike Hessman and outfielder Ezequiel Carrera were named to the International League All-Star roster for the Triple-A All-Star Game, which will be played on Wednesday, July 16, one day after the Major League version.
• Ausmus briefly generated some concern Thursday when he put Don Kelly in the on-deck circle to hit for Nick Castellanos in the fourth inning. However, what briefly looked like a potential injury situation turned out to be a bathroom break.
"Nick was in the bathroom," Ausmus said. "We wanted someone on deck in case Miggy was going to score, and he could tell him whether to slide to stay up."