Simply looking to prove that he deserves a chance, J.D. Martinez has been one of the hottest hitters in the minor leagues over the season’s first few weeks and the effort has now been rewarded. The Detroit Tigers have called Martinez up to their active roster in order to replace reliever Luke Putkonen, who’s been placed on the disabled list with inflammation in his elbow. Andy Dirks was transferred to the 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster for Martinez.
Martinez should be in uniform for Detroit’s game tonight against the Chicago White Sox.
Having been released by the Houston Astros during Spring Training, Martinez wound up signing a minor league deal with the Tigers in late March. He’d join the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Toledo and he’s gotten off to a phenomenal start to the season. Through his first 65 at bats Martinez has laced 20 hits, 10 of which have cleared the fence for home runs. His .308/.366/.846 line is highly unsustainable, but it’s drawn plenty of attention to Martinez’ success at the plate this season. His home runs have also come in bunches, as he hit four of them across the two games of a doubleheader just this past Saturday.
The production from Martinez was hardly expected. Over parts of the past three seasons with the Astros he’d batted a combined .251/.300/.387 in just under 1,000 plate appearances. Martinez totaled 71 extra base hits over that stretch, but just 24 HR (11 in 2012, his career high). He’s prone to the strikeout (24% career strikeout rate) but he has experience in each outfield corner which does bring some value to the table.
Detroit will presumably like having a little added power on their bench, but Martinez will hardly be seeing regular playing time in all likelihood. Jason Beck at MLB.com notes that Ezequiel Carrera was also considered for the callup as he too is off to a strong start with Toledo (.364/.419/.545 in 74 PA). He’d impressed the Tigers coaching staff during Spring Training, but he doesn’t bring the same pop at the plate that Martinez may be able to offer. With Don Kelly receiving most of the pinch hit opportunities for the team this season, they wanted to add some potential power to the bench as another option.
As for Putkonen, he was hit hard during his last outing on Friday, allowing seven runs on five hits over two innings of work against the Los Angeles Angels. It was only his second appearance out of the bullpen this season and it’s unclear how severe his injury may end up being.