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V-Mart could see time behind the plate this season

V-Mart could see time behind the plate this season

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Manager Jim Leyland is focused on having Victor Martinez be his primary designated hitter this season, but he isn't ruling out the former All-Star catcher getting back behind the plate at some point.

In fact, he sounded very much as though he's anticipating this when the Tigers don't have the DH slot to use.

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"Eventually, at some point, if he's real healthy, he could catch a game in Interleague Play," Leyland said. "That's down the road. I don't want to make a big deal about that, because we've laid low on that. But is it a possibility? Yeah, down the road.

"It is going to happen for sure? I can't answer that, but I think it's a strong possibility. If you felt like there was some nasty, nasty left-hander and Victor was healthy enough and you felt like you weren't risking anything, you might do it. And he'll want to do it, I know that."

Martinez has not caught in a game this spring, and probably won't, but Leyland said he has worked out behind the plate.

The Tigers had Martinez catch some games during Interleague Play two years ago, shifting Alex Avila to third base on some days and completely sitting him on others. That, however, was the old format, in which Interleague games were concentrated into one weekend in May and a few weeks in June.

This is the first year Interleague games are spread out over the full schedule. The Tigers' first National League series comes up in late April, when the Braves go to Detroit. Their first games in NL cities without the DH will be on May 7-8 in Washington, and another two-game set comes up at the end of that month, in Pittsburgh.

After that they don't have to worry about NL rules until late August, when they visit the Mets. The big worry, though, will come with the regular season's final three games, in Miami. So it's possible the American League Central could be decided without the DH in play.

Given that, it makes sense that the Tigers will not rule out the idea. It also makes sense for Detroit to field the best lineup it can in the most important games, whether that lineup includes Martinez and/or Avila.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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