Tigers manager Jim Leyland was one of the individuals at the Mud Hens' annual Fandemonium event. Here is a transcript of the group interview with Leyland from the event:
How do the Tigers try to replace Victor Martinez?
"The first thing you do is see if there's a possibility of replacing him internally. If the answer is 'yes,' that's what you do. If the answer is no, you extend your [antennae] and see what you can do about it."
Do you feel any urgency about replacing Martinez?
"No, I don't feel any urgency at all. I think [Tigers general manager] Dave [Dombrowski] said it pretty well when he called it a, 'punch in the gut.' But if you want to stay in the fight, you take a punch. We can take a punch. We took the Delmon [Young] punch last year. We took the Magglio [Ordonez] punch. We took the Victor [Martinez] punch last year. We had guys hurt. If you can't take a punch, you don't belong in the fight."
How is Martinez taking this injury?
"I think he's down, obviously. But you learn to live with these things. It's always a Catch 22 when you are management: You don't want to downplay the loss of Victor Martinez, but you don't want to [focus] on it, either.
"During this caravan, I'd like to have a meeting. I would say, 'Look, we'll discuss this today -- and after this, I don't want to discuss this any more. Don't come to spring training [and talk about it].' I don't want to downplay losing Victor, but we can take a punch. It's something you do the best you can with.
"It would be a total shot in the dark to find someone as good as Victor Martinez, let's face it. So if you say it's not going to hurt us, you're lying. This guy is one of the best clutch hitters in baseball, he's one of the best two-strike hitters in baseball, he's one of the best run-producers in baseball. So you're most likely not going to replace him."
When did you find out that Martinez was injured?
"I got a call a couple of days ago from Dave. He said, 'How are you doing?' and I could tell right away something wasn't right. I told him I was fine, and he said, 'Well, you're not going to be.' Then he told me Victor had torn his ACL.
"I don't want to downplay [losing Victor], but I still feel positive about our team. We'll make the adjustment and go forward. We have a good team."
Is this an opportunity for the Tigers to get more athletic?
"I don't know. I'm not ducking the question -- I just don't know the answer. This is still so fresh, it really hasn't set in yet. There are some options outside [the organization], and there are some options that would be hitter-types who don't have a lot of speed. But there might be some [options] with speed out there that you would make some adjustments with other players on your team. We just want to look at it internally first -- there's no reason to panic. There's no reason to overreact. You feel sorry for Victor, and you feel sorry for yourself. But that can only last a short time -- you can feel sorry for Victor for the whole year, but you can't feel sorry for yourself the whole year."
Is your immediate impression that there's a lot of candidates out there?
"There are a lot of names out there. How good they produce any more, I don't know. I ultimately leave that up to Dave. We've already had some discussions -- I won't say who they are [about] -- but about some guys internally, and about some guys outside the organization. I don't know this for a fact, but I bet a lot of agents called Dave Dombrowski [Wednesday]. Suddenly there are a lot of guys who want to play in Detroit."
When asked what type of player might replace Martinez, Leyland said:
"I don't know that it's a DH spot we're trying to fill. That's part of the puzzle here. Do you take someone that you already have [and make them the DH] and then pick up a position player to fill that role? It's all premature to say [we're going after a DH type]. That's not necessarily how it will end up. It might, but it might not."
ASIDE: The obvious solution is to find another DH-type to replace Martinez. There are at least two other options: one would be to find a first baseman, then move Miguel Cabrera to DH. The other would be to find a corner outfielder, then move Delmon Young to DH. Depending on the replacement, either move could strengthen the defense. Notes that if the replacement is an outfielder, it could be a faster player to hit at the top of the order and doesn't HAVE to be a middle-of-the-lineup hitter. If the replacement is found externally, expect the contract to be for one year (assume that Martinez returns next season) at roughly the $6 million insurance would pay to cover part of the Martinez contract.
Do you expect the option you decide upon to be a short-term option, or an option that changes the look of the team for a long time?
"That's a better question for Dave. If you're asking me if we'll sign a guy for three years, I doubt that, but I don't want to speak for Dave on that. Dave is smart: we've talked about some names already, but he's not going to panic. He's going to do his homework. When something like this happens, you don't just go out and sign someone the next day. There are all types of things that go into that; you have to be patient. One thing about Dave: He's relentless in this type of situation. We'll come up with something.
"One thing everyone has to remember: We're not going to sign Victor Martinez. And we're not going to find him internally. You're kidding yourself if you think you will."
If this injury had not occurred, the question you would be asked right now is: 'Are you guys done making moves?'
"I don't think so. Dave is always looking to improve our team. There's no secret we have a No. 5 hole [in the rotation]. We have some nice options in our organization, but that doesn't mean we might not possibly go outside the organization -- by way of a trade or free agency -- to fill it. I don't think we're done. Dave will continue to work to put the best team on the field, with fiscal responsibility."
One of the candidates for that fifth spot in the rotation is Jacob Turner. How do you analyze what you've seen from him?
"That's something I was thinking about: I really want to downplay the 'competition' part in spring training. I'm not saying I'm right, but I think that puts everything in the wrong perspective. I think guys go to spring training and put extra pressure on themselves. They think, 'If I have one good outing I might stay a little longer, and if I have two good outings I might make the team.'
"I don't think that's the purpose of [spring training]. I think Jacob Turner -- and all the pitchers -- should go to spring training with the purpose of getting prepared for the season. I'm going to talk to them about it. When you have five or six guys in the organization in competition, that sends the wrong signal. Just get yourself ready to pitch for the season. I think that's a better attitude to take.
"We'll have someone good in that [fifth] spot. It might be Jacob Turner, it might be someone else in the organization. It might be someone who isn't in the organization right now."
What do you think of the Tigers' exhibition game at Fifth Third Field in April?
"I think it's a nice thing. It's a tough one for us -- I'm sure some of the players aren't going to be happy, because it's normally a workout day at Comerica Park. But our relationship is really good here.
"In all honesty, the main thing is for people [in Toledo] to understand what this is all about. The regulars aren't going to play for all nine innings. This isn't a competitive game against the Mud Hens: This is a chance to get your players ready for [the season] while showcasing your players to the Toledo fans that deserve that. ...
"I doubt that Justin Verlander is going to [pitch] here, since he told me he's going to pitch on Opening Day -- I'm kidding. But it will be a relaxed atmosphere, and I hope it's a positive thing.
"I'm glad to do it. I think it's a nice gesture on our part, because they do a great job here in Toledo. It's an excellent franchise here in Toledo, and from a selfish standpoint it's great that, if the Mud Hens are home, we can have a guy pull a muscle in BP and have a guy up from Toledo [by game time]. That's pretty good. When I managed in Pittsburgh, one year we had our Triple-A team in Hawaii. That's a little bit different."
Does Justin Verlander's Taco Bell diet have your blessing?
"I did not know about that. You talk about knowing your players, and I had no idea about that. But I don't want him to change anything."