Tigers’ outfielder J.D. Martinez is poised to make his season debut after being activated off the 10-day disabled list on Friday. He was diagnosed with a Lisfranc ligament sprain in his right foot back in mid-March, when he rolled his foot while trying to make a catch during a Grapefruit League game. He’s set to join the team on the road as they continue a four-game series against the Angels at 10:07 ET.
If Martinez’s return feels a little fast, that’s because it is. Detroit manager Brad Ausmus told reporters that he initially wanted the right fielder to take a few more reps in Triple-A before making a return to the majors. That timetable was scrapped when fellow outfielder Jim Adduci suffered an oblique injury during batting practice on Thursday and forced Ausmus to rearrange his outfield options. By Ausmus’ calculations, Martinez saw over 50 at-bats during extended spring training and multiple stints at Triple-A Toledo and High-A Lakeland, and should be healthy enough to man right field in Adduci’s absence. The team is likely to take things slow with the 29-year-old outfielder, however, at least until they’re confident that his foot won’t cause additional problems.
Martinez went 1-for-15 with Toledo this spring, collecting one home run, two RBI and two walks in four games. He hit his second home run in High-A Lakeland, going 3-for-8 with another two RBI in his final two rehab appearances. He’s coming off of his third full season with the Tigers, during which he batted a solid .307/.373/.535 with 22 home runs and a .908 OPS over 460 PA.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.