Two days after being waived by the Houston Astros, former Flanagan outfielder J.D. Martinez signed a minor-league contract with the Detroit Tigers on Monday.
The Tigers have been shuffling to find depth since losing shortstop Jose Iglesias and outfielder Andy Dirks to injury. The Tigers have shown interest in Martinez in the past and even tried to trade for him during the most recent winter meetings in Orlando.
At Flanagan, Martinez competed against the likes of Eric Hosmer and Alex Avila to win back-to-back Florida state championships in 2005-06. He was taken by the Minnesota Twins in the 36th round of the 2006 MLB Draft but wanted to go to college first.
“I can honestly say I never really developed until I was in college,” Martinez said. “In high school, I did well, but I didn’t do really really well. I always hit fourth on the state championship team, but I never really stood out and made a big impression.”
Martinez went on to play at Nova Southeastern University and was a two-time All-SSC baseball player. The Astros selected him in the 20th round of the 2009 draft and two years later became the first Shark to make it to the big leagues.
“My heart was racing 100 miles an hour,” Martinez said while describing his emotions during his major-league debut. “Everything seemed so big. It was the first time I ever caught a ball with stands in the stadium as a background. Usually you have the sky as a background. It was so weird. I felt so tiny on the field.”
Martinez came in to replace Hunter Pence, who was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. He finished the 2011 season batting .274 with a .742 OPS and 35 RBI in 226 plate appearances and was an occasional starter in 2012 and hit the first home run in Marlins Park history. Injuries derailed his season in 2013.
Martinez said he made adjustments to his swing during the off-season but his strength and conditioning program has stayed the same. Usually players change their off-season workout regimen in an effort to prevent injuries such as muscle strains.
“My injuries have been freak injuries,” Martinez said. Like a broken hand, you can’t prevent that. Then I slide into second and tear a ligament in the same hand. You can’t prevent that.”
He had a strong showing in winter ball season in Venezuela, batting .312 with six home runs in 24 games. However going 3-for-18 in spring training led to him being released.
Martinez likely will begin the season in Triple-A Toledo and be the first guy up should anything happen to any of the Tigers’ outfielders.