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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Tigers snuff out hope: VMart won't return in 2012

So you’re saying there’s no chance?

Nope. Not anymore.

All season long the Tigers were saying just the opposite, officially holding out a glimmer of hope that Victor Martinez might miraculously rehabilitate his knee injury quickly enough to somehow return for the end of this season.

Friday, they officially snuffed that hope out.

“At this point in time, we’re starting to look at 2013,” head trainer Kevin Rand said. “Obviously, he’s disappointed, because he’s worked very, very hard. But at the end of the day, we talked on Wednesday, he’s done everything in his power to give himself an opportunity to play this year. It just didn’t work.”

The determination was made in a Wednesday conference call with Martinez’s physical therapists in both Colorado, at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic where the surgery was performed, and at home in Orlando, basically making concrete what had been known for a while: That there was simply not enough time to get VMart ready to play baseball.

For the Tigers, it’s an end to the constant speculation of when he might be ready, when he may be back. Now, there’s no longer a question.

“Victor’s rehabbing. Don’t look for Victor. We’ve said that a thousand times. Victor Martinez will not play for the Tigers in 2012, I do not think. I emphasize ‘I do not think,’ ” manager Jim Leyland said in his pregame media session, referring reporters to Rand for more details. “I think he’ll put everybody at ease about that. Then they’ll have that, once and for all, and they won’t have to keep talking about it.”

It’s a return to the disappointing prognosis the Tigers originally got when Martinez first injured the knee in January. At the tim, no one ever thought there was a chance he’d be back before next season, if then. But the better-than-expected results from the experimental surgery kept hope alive for most of the summer.

That hope started to wane when Martinez’s progress was checked in late July. The findings then were that his leg strength was unequal, too much so for him to start a running progression, or any sort of baseball activities.

The clock was ticking.

“He got to a point where we looked at it, and we felt he doesn’t have enough time. In order to put him through a running progression, and give him a chance to get into baseball-specific work, the time wasn’t there,” Rand said. “Basically, when we did the strength assessment at the end of July, and where he was at at that point in time, we felt that we were probably going to hit this point. It was a question of when. We gave it a couple of more weeks, to kind of push and see where it put him.”

Wednesday’s conference call finally ended the speculation.

Rand later spoke to a disappointed Martinez, who no longer has the carrot of a possible return in front of him. Now, they’ll slow down the pace of his rehabilitation, and look at starting his running in November, a month earlier than a player would in a normal offseason.

“You always want guys that want to push and be out there to play and that’s never been a question with Victor. When you give them that best-case scenario, you want him targeting that. That being said, if he doesn’t get to it, is he disappointed? Well, sure. Obviously, because these guys are competitive. But by the same token, you want them pushing. I’d rather have the guy pushing to try to get out there and try to play and at the end of the day, then I’ll try to push him to get there,” Rand said.

“He was disappointed, because he really busted his ass, and has really worked hard, but he also realizes, you know what, the risk isn’t worth it at this point.”

For the trainer, this wasn’t as much a setback as bowing to reality, as well as a concession that the last thing they want to do is risk further injury by pushing too hard.

“The biggest thing for me is looking at the bigger picture: The bigger picture is, we’ve got this guy signed for four years; this is his second year, and we’ve got years three and four to worry about. We want the guy ready to go and healthy,” Rand said.

“For me, as I told him from Day One, we were not going to do anything to jeopardize years three and four to try to push it to two. It just isn’t worth it to him. He’s too valuable a guy to us, too valuable a player.”


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