Jim Leyland Thinks the Tigers Can Still Be Competitive Despite the Loss of Victor Martinez

January 23, 2012 – 9:15 am by Chris Fedor

Pitchers and catchers have yet to report to Spring Training and already the defending American League Central Division champs have suffered a huge loss to their World Series hopes. Victor Martinez may not get the headlines in Detroit because of Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, but V-Mart was instrumental in the Tigers success a season ago. In his first season in the Motor City, Martinez delivered everything and more the Tigers expected when they signed him to a nice contract before last season. Not only did he have a career high batting average at .330, but he also drove in over 100 runs, and was the protection for Miguel Cabrera. When teams wanted to avoid pitching to Miggy, Martinez made them pay repeatedly. Unfortunately that protection will be missed for the entire season. While training this offseason, Martinez tore his ACL and now the Tigers will have a huge hole to try to fill prior to the 2012 season.

Jim Leyland joined WXYT in Detroit with Stoney and Bill to talk about how he reacted when he heard the news that Victor Martinez tore his ACL, whether or not he thinks the Tigers can still be good enough to win the division without Martinez, if the expectations have changed based on last year’s success, and talks about Justin Verlander.

How he reacted when he heard the news that Victor Martinez tore his ACL:

“It was a shock obviously. It took a little time to register. I thought about it, obviously talked to my wife and daughter about it, told them about it when I got off the phone and it’s just something you learn to live with in this business. There’s no real silver lining I guess in this cloud except for the fact that we’re not in limbo. I was talking to all the media yesterday and we know what it is, it’s not like Victor might be ready June 1st or something. He’s not going to be ready. Probably won’t play this year at all so we have 10 weeks to kind of rectify that situation and we’ll see how it plays out.”

Whether or not he thinks the Tigers can still be good enough to win the division without Victor Martinez:

“I think we’re good enough to be a real competitive team. Nobody knows who is going to win for sure. A lot of things have to go right. If you look at it last year we were all kind of hanging around, we were all kind of floundering around there next to each other in the division and all of the sudden we put the metal to the pedal and we pulled away so you just never know how it’s going to play out but we’re certainly good enough to be very competitive in any division in my opinion. We have a good team.”

If the expectations have changed based on last year’s success:

“I think they probably change for other people, they don’t change for me. My expectations aren’t to win the division and the World Series. My expectations are to get the most out of my players, put the best team on the field, entertain the fans, get the most out of our players, and wherever that takes us it takes us. It might take us to a Central Division Championship, it might take us to a World Series. Who knows? I don’t have those kinds of goals like other people do. Everybody’s goal every year is to win the World Series. Other teams are rebuilding and stuff, we’re not. We’re a good team, we have a good team in place, we’re certainly a candidate, and if we play good then we will be in the hunt.”

On Justin Verlander:

“No, I think we were talking about that yesterday, he could pitch better this year than last year and not win as many games or he could pitch not quite as good and win more games. You just don’t know how it’s going to play out. He’s our horse at the head of the rotation, but we feel like we’re going to have a really good rotation. I think Rick Porcello is going to have a big year, I really do. We’ve got (Doug) Fister now, (Max) Scherzer is signed, and everybody is happy. I thought they did a great job of getting all the arbitration cases settled and everybody is in good spirits. We’re pretty good but you have to play good.”

Listen to Jim Leyland on WXYT in Detroit here

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