J.D. Martinez has been hot for the Detroit Tigers lately, particularly throughout the month of June. In fact, Martinez was so good over the last month that the Tigers named him “Player of the Month” for June.
Martinez hit .345 with 12 runs scored, nine doubles, seven home runs and 21 RBI in the month. He was tied for third in the American League in home runs during June, tied for fourth in RBI and tied for seventh in doubles.
Martinez was also named AL player of the week, the first weekly honor for any Tiger of the season. Martinez batted .444 (12-for-27) with three doubles, four homers, 11 RBI and six runs scored in seven games. Martinez also had the longest hit streak of his career of 14 games during the month of June.
The Tigers knew more about J.D. Martinez than the average free agent, which is why they moved so quickly to sign him after he was released by the Houston Astros during spring training.
Tigers assistant general manager Al Avila has known Martinez since he was a teenager. Martinez had played Little League baseball for Al’s brother, Ralph, and had played college baseball at Nova Southeastern (Fla.) University with Al’s son, Alan.
“It’s not like it’s a guy that we saw out of the blue,” Al Avila said. “I’ve always felt he was a good hitter. Actually, he has hit good throughout his career, up and down, like a lot of young guys trying to figure it out.”
Now, the rest of the league is getting familiar with the hot-hitting outfielder too.
Martinez was tabbed by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick as one of the under-the-radar saviors during this season’s first half.
“Martinez has always been blessed with the power and ability to hit,” Crasnick writes. “But the Astros probably rushed him when they summoned him to the big leagues after 90 Triple-A at-bats, and things went downhill for Martinez in Houston after an uncomfortable incident in April 2013.”
The incident, Crasnick describes, was Martinez swinging at the first pitch — apparently in violation of a team rule, he noted — and popping out in a loss to Seattle.
In late March, Martinez was released by the Astros. Avila was “on the phone with agent Bob Garber almost immediately after Houston cut Martinez loose.”
Martinez then went to Triple-A Toledo and hit 10 home runs in 17 games.
“In Triple-A, he’s off the charts and he comes here and he struggles a little bit when he first got here,” Avila said. “Now, he’s obviously caught fire and hitting very well.”
As much as Al Avila liked Martinez, even he wouldn’t have predicted how Martinez has impacted the Tigers so quickly.
“I don’t think anyone in their right mind at the time would say this guy is going to be one of our everyday outfielders hitting fifth,” Avila said. “We acquired him because we felt he was only 26 years old. I’d seen him in high school, college and with Houston. We felt this guy has the potential to be a good hitter.”
Martinez is currently batting .318 with 10 home runs and 34 RBI.
Catch J.D. and the rest of the Tigers in action vs. the Rays Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night on ESPN or FSDT.