Tigers star Victor Martinez expected back by opening day after knee surgery



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DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers are optimistic Victor Martinez will be ready for the start of the season after the slugging designated hitter had surgery on his left knee.

Dr. James Andrews performed the operation Tuesday in Pensacola, Florida. The Tigers announced last week that Martinez had torn his medial meniscus during offseason workouts, but they now say he should resume full activity in four to six weeks.

"This is the best-case scenario that we could have hoped for," trainer Kevin Rand said.

Martinez hit .335 with 32 home runs and 103 RBIs in 2014, helping the Tigers hold off Kansas City for their fourth consecutive AL Central title. He and Miguel Cabrera form a powerful tandem in the middle of the lineup, but with Cabrera's health also in question following offseason ankle surgery, Detroit was facing a potential quandary when Martinez got hurt.

The short-term prognosis, however, sounds favorable.

"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 Dave Dombrowski said in a statement.

Martinez, a five-time All-Star, missed the 2012 season after injuring the same knee. This problem wasn't nearly as severe, although Rand said part of the meniscus was removed during Tuesday's operation, since it was not repairable. There had been some question as to whether the meniscus might be repaired or removed.

"The decision was basically made for us," Rand said.

Although Martinez's fairly short recovery time is good news for the Tigers' immediate future, the 36-year-old is just starting a $68 million, four-year contract. Removing part of the meniscus could leave Martinez facing some challenges down the road.

But Rand said it's not clear if or when more problems with the knee could surface.

"There's no guarantee of that," he said. "You don't know at what point that could be."

Rand said Martinez will begin rehab in Orlando, which isn't far from Detroit's spring training facility in Lakeland, Florida. The Tigers' first workout for pitchers and catchers is Feb. 20, and the first for the full squad is Feb. 24.

Although he missed the whole 2012 season with previous knee issues, Martinez was able to re-establish himself as one of the game's top hitters after coming back. He hit .301 in 2013, and last year he placed second to Mike Trout in the American League MVP race, the fifth straight season a Detroit player finished in the top two.

"He was in great shape prior to getting hurt," Rand said. "He's been through the rehab for a knee injury before."

Martinez has been Detroit's primary DH, and he's also been able to fill in for Cabrera at first base on occasion. The Tigers expect to find out more soon on Cabrera's timetable.

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