Al Avila calls Tigers rebuild the 'greatest challenge' of career
6:02 PM, Jan 24, 2018
DETROIT (AP) — Michael Fulmer and Victor Martinez are expected to be at full strength at spring training for the Detroit Tigers.
General manager Al Avila gave an update on their status Wednesday following a luncheon with Detroit Sports Media. Fulmer had elbow surgery in September, around the same time Martinez underwent a surgical procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat.
After winning Rookie of the Year honors in 2016, Fulmer went 10-12 with a 3.83 ERA last season.
"He's thrown out to 180 feet with no restrictions and no setbacks, so right now he's on track to be 100 percent coming into spring training," Avila said.
Martinez hit .255 with 10 home runs and 47 RBIs in 2017. The 39-year-old DH is entering the last season of a four-year contract.
"The last report on Victor is that he's doing everything normal, there's no setbacks, and that he's expected to be in spring training also 100 percent," Avila said.
Fulmer's health is a crucial issue for the Tigers. The 24-year-old right-hander is the type of young, cost-controlled standout that gives a rebuilding Detroit team some hope for the future.
For the first time in a while, the Tigers are entering a season with little hope of contending for a championship. Since the All-Star break last year, Detroit has traded J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler, and Avila has made no secret of the fact that the short-term future could be difficult.
"We had to go all-in in a full rebuild," Avila said. "I think the majority of people understood that. I think the majority of the people wanted that, wanted to see that. I think the shock came when it became true."
One marquee player still with the Tigers is slugger Miguel Cabrera, who is 34 and coming off the worst season of his career. He hit .249 with 16 homers and 60 RBIs last year.
Avila was asked if Cabrera, whose contract runs through at least 2023, might also be traded.
"That's hard to predict as far as Miggy's concerned," Avila said. "That's a huge contract, and those kind of contracts are not usually moved or easily moved."
The Tigers went 64-98 last season and have the No. 1 pick in this year's draft. They hired a new manager in Ron Gardenhire, but there's no expectation of any quick fix.
Avila replaced Dave Dombrowski as Detroit's GM during the 2015 season. Before that, he was in the Tigers' front office during a previous rebuilding period that led to their American League pennant in 2006 — and he was with the Florida Marlins for similar stretches in that organization's history.
"If you talk to our scouts, our player development people, our front office, this is the biggest challenge in our careers. A lot of us have faced it before — we faced it in Florida, we faced it when we first got here, and we came out very successful," Avila said. "We're embracing this, because this is what baseball people dream about, is to get a club like this and turn it around and make it a champion."
NOTES: The Tigers agreed to terms with right-hander Matt West, left-handers James Russell and Caleb Thielbar, and infielder Alexi Amarista on minor league deals. Amarista, who hit .238 in 96 games for the Colorado Rockies last year, has an invitation to major league spring training.
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