On the same day the Tigers loaded up their equipment truck headed for Spring Training, they received a major message of assurance that Victor Martinez should be ready when the team heads back north for Opening Day.
Martinez underwent surgery as scheduled on a torn medial meniscus in his left knee Tuesday morning, but is expected to return to full activity in four to six weeks, putting him on track to be ready when the Tigers start their regular season April 6.
"We are very happy the surgery went well and that Victor will be ready to compete for the start of the 2015 season," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said in a statement.
Considering the Tigers had held off on any timetable for Martinez until Dr. James Andrews performed surgery Tuesday morning, it was a strong statement from Dombrowski.
"Obviously that gives him a chance," head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said, "to be hopefully playing the latter part of Spring Training and give him enough at-bats. That's obviously the hope."
Martinez, who suffered the injury during baseball workouts two weeks ago, underwent a partial meniscectomy, clipping the torn portion rather than doing a full reattachment. Rand described it as a bucket handle tear, in which the central portion of the meniscus tears and flips into the joint.
"It was not going to be repairable," Rand said.
A full repair and reattachment could have sidelined the 36-year-old Martinez anywhere from three to six months. The different recovery periods made the difference in the procedures crucial to the Tigers' fortunes.
Dombrowski had held off on discussing how they might fill Martinez's spot until they knew how long he'd be out, saying he didn't know what he'd have to fill. With Martinez on track to be ready on Opening Day or shortly thereafter, Dombrowski confirmed the Tigers won't be looking to add anybody as a fill-in.
Martinez will be on crutches until the swelling goes down. From there, Rand said, they'll work on getting range of motion back in his knee before ramping up activity.
"Then we'll be able to work the muscles in and around the joint," Rand said. "Vic was in great shape prior to the surgery. That should really bode well for his rehab."
Still, any plans for Martinez to put stress on the knee by catching during Interleague Play early in the season -- the Tigers' first road trip includes a stop in Pittsburgh to face the Pirates -- are likely out.
"As of right now, I wouldn't plan on Victor catching," manager Brad Ausmus said. "But that could be revisited at a later date."