Saturday, June 14, 2008

Victor Martinez Wastes No Time Starting Rehab

Injured catcher Victor Martinez wasted no time in beginning a post-surgical limbering and motion workout at the Indians training and weight room, then suited up and joined newly acquired backup catcher Yamid Haad in the bullpen as they watched the Tribe fall to the visiting Padres 8-3 at Progressive Field.

Martinez underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove chips from his throwing elbow only 24 hours earlier at the Cleveland Clinic, where Dr. Mark Schickendantz pronounced the procedure successful.

Martinez is expected to be out for up to two months, then undergo an evaluation as to whether he can resume play behind the plate on a limited basis, finish the year mostly at first base, at designated hitter or merely come off the bench.

The possibility -- however remote -- that he would sit out for the remainder of the year has not been ruled out. The performance of catcher Kelly Shoppach -- widely recognized as an outstanding all-around replacement potentially coming into his prime at 28 -- likely will figure prominently in evaluating the best course for the team when Martinez finishes his rehabilitation program.

Fans had been suspicious for weeks after Martinez -- who normally can be counted on for 20-30 homers a year -- had failed to hit a single ball over the fence in more than 200 plate appearances since spring.

Martinez also prompted MLB rumors by sitting out immediately at the end of spring with what he described as a "sore hamstring," even though hamstring injuries are very rare for catchers because catchers stretch in a squatting position for extended periods.

Few have speculated whether the hamstring issue was a cover story to hide the fact that Martinez was having trouble with his throwing arm, a possibility that would tip off opposing base runners that they could steal with impunity. Martinez already had been cited among the weakest throwing catchers even before his elbow trouble was confirmed by a magnetic resonance image.

Though apparently uncomfortable when the season began, Martinez managed to hit enough singles to maintain a .350 average over the next 30 days, yet refused to complain for another two weeks. Finally mounting pain while swinging the bat became more conspicuous as he hit .221 in May and .200 in since June 1, prompting the MRI exam.