LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) Detroit Tigers right fielder J.D. Martinez is expected to miss the beginning of the season with a right foot injury.
Martinez sprained his foot last weekend, and manager Brad Ausmus told reporters Friday he is expected to be out three to four weeks. The injury is an early blow to a Detroit team that was hoping for improved health this season after keeping its roster largely intact.
Martinez hit .307 with 22 home runs and 68 RBIs in 120 games last season, when the Tigers finished second in the AL Central, eight games behind Cleveland. Martinez missed time last year with a fractured elbow.
Detroit was already facing an uncertain situation in center field, where Mikie Mahtook, Tyler Collins and JaCoby Jones are all options. Martinez's absence now creates an opening in right field.
Collins and Mahtook have played in right in the past, and Steven Moya has as well. None of those players, however, would be a good bet to replicate Martinez's production.
Detroit nearly made the postseason last year despite injury problems for Martinez, Nicholas Castellanos, Jordan Zimmermann and Daniel Norris. The Tigers have made it clear they'll need to cut payroll soon, but they kept their core of Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler together to try to make another attempt at a World Series title.
It's a team that can ill afford significant injuries to its top players, since Detroit's depth is thin. Martinez, who had 83 homers in the past three seasons since joining the Tigers, can become a free agent at the end of this season.
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