Victor Martinez will visit Target Field for perhaps the last time in his career Thursday when the Detroit Tigers open a four-game series with the Minnesota Twins.
The soon-to-be 40-year-old designated hitter had suggested during spring training that retirement was on the horizon and his comments Wednesday afternoon made that decision appear all the more imminent.
“I’m pretty sure this is going to be it,” Martinez said during a postgame interview FOX Sports Detroit’s broadcast. “This is going to be it. I’m just enjoying these last six weeks and I’ll finally go home.”
Martinez is batting .244 this season with six home runs, 39 RBIs and a .624 OPS, well below his career numbers of .295 and .815 OPS. He has 243 career homers.
“I’ve been enjoying the whole year,” Martinez told reporters. “I told the guys: We have to enjoy it. We’re lucky just to be here in this room. We just have to enjoy it, because you never know where you’re going to be tomorrow.”
Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire praised Martinez’s efforts to help his young, inexperienced club as it navigates a rebuilding process.
“These guys love him,” Gardenhire told mlb.com. “He gets a couple hits, he’s running the bases and comes into the dugout, and everybody’s greeting him, high-fiving him. He’s really excited, and that brings it to everybody. Everybody in the dugout’s enjoying this because of his career and how much he really is into this, trying to help these guys out. He talks to these young guys all the time. He’s so, so much more important than the stats.”
Martinez will go up against veteran right-hander Ervin Santana in the series opener.
It will mark Santana’s first start since publicly criticizing his team’s front office in the wake of trading away multiple veteran players, including his close friend Fernando Rodney.
“It’s tough, especially when we’re only 10 games out and we have two months left,” Santana told reporters last week. “Everybody’s like, ‘They gave up.’ We’re not giving up, but they did.
“They took our pieces away, and it’s difficult to play without our good pieces. You know what I mean? So we just have to play with what we have and try to win games.”
After missing the first four months of the season recovering from a finger injury, the 35-year-old is 0-1 with a 6.53 ERA in four starts for Minnesota. Despite that, Santana found himself the subject of trade rumors as well, and could still find himself somewhere new before the August waiver-trade deadline.
“We don’t have control over that,” Santana said. “We’re just here. We play one day at a time, so anything can happen.”
Santana’s comments came after he gave up five runs on three hits in his last outing, a 5-3 loss to the Tigers in Detroit. He gave up a pair of home runs in that outing as all of his pitchers checked in three to four mph lower than his career average.
Santana said he’s not concerning himself with velocity but, rather, the results.
I just worry about my hand and try to get better each and every day. That’s it. I don’t worry about the velocity,” he said. “I’m just trying to locate my fastball and my off-speed and that’s it.”
Left-hander Francisco Liriano (3-7, 4.42) gets the nod for Detroit. A member of the Twins from 2005-2012, Liriano is making his fourth career road start at Target Field and is facing his former team for the first time since 2015, when he was with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
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