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Red-hot Martinez grateful to learn from struggles

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Red-hot Martinez grateful to learn from struggles play video for Red-hot Martinez grateful to learn from struggles

ARLINGTON -- J.D. Martinez didn't quite know what to make of being named the American League Player of the Week, especially since he hadn't had enough playing time in a while to even be considered.

"I didn't think it was that big of a deal," Martinez said on Tuesday afternoon, "but the way everyone's coming up to me and saying, 'Congrats,' they're telling me it's not easy and [that I] should feel honored."

By Tuesday night he had taken his tear into a new week, hitting a go-ahead two-run homer to straightaway center field at Globe Life Park in the Tigers' 8-2 win over the Rangers. In the process he left many wondering how long he can keep pummeling so many pitches -- and how manager Brad Ausmus will keep writing him into the lineup on a daily basis.

"J.D.'s swinging the bat very well," Ausmus said. "And as long as he's swinging the bat like he is, we're going to continue to get him in there."

The longer it goes, the more it leads to the question of when a hot streak becomes too long to be a hot streak, but something more lasting.

In Martinez's case, the stretch is now well over a week. But as Ausmus pointed out, hot streaks easily last longer.

To Martinez, it's not even that.

"I just feel like I'm not missing as many pitches as I was earlier," he said. "To me a hot streak is [when] you're going 4-for-4, 3-for-4, 4-for-4, 3-for-4, 2-for-4, 3-for-4. When you're doing that for a week, now you're hot.

"I definitely hit the ball well for a week, but it's just another week, another day. Now you've just got to go out there and look at the next guy tomorrow, worry about hitting him."

That's the thing about what Martinez is doing right now: Nearly everything he's hitting, he's hitting hard. And he's usually hitting far.

His double in the first inning made it to the wall in center field on a couple of hops. In hindsight the ball might have gotten there too fast, because it gave center fielder Daniel Robertson a chance to play it off the wall and fire it back to shortstop Elvis Andrus in plenty of time for Andrus to throw out Victor Martinez at home. J.D. tried to distract Andrus into creating a rundown as he rounded second base, but to no avail.

J.D. fell into an 0-2 hole in the fourth inning before popping out to second. He was determined not to do the same thing when he stepped to the plate in the seventh with V-Mart on second base after he'd hit a leadoff double.

Rangers starter Colby Lewis threw him a fastball over the plate. J.D. sent it over the center-field fence.

"I was just able to hit it, not miss it," he said, shrugging.

If it was one homer, maybe the word just applies. Martinez has homered five times in eight games since the start of last week, and he's 14-for-31 with 11 RBIs in that stretch. He has a 13-game hitting streak in which he's 21-for-51 with seven doubles, 15 RBIs and eight runs.

This is the same player the Astros released with a week to go in Spring Training, giving him up for nothing at age 26.

"I hope it's more than just a hot streak," Ausmus said. "I hope he's confident. He's clearly a guy people thought had the potential to be a power hitter at the Major League level at a young age. Maybe he's gotten more experience under his belt and he's kind of revamped his swing. Maybe he is that player they thought he was, and maybe he is coming into that. I hope he is."

The way Martinez is looking at things, everything happens for a reason. If he hadn't struggled last season, he wouldn't have been on his way out of Houston, but he also wouldn't have made the changes to his swing that helped him, either.

"Everything happens for a reason," he said. "I feel like if I didn't go through what I did, I'd never have my eyes opened to the changes that I needed to make to really kind of come into my own. I feel like that's kind of what happened.

"All of a sudden, my eyes just kind of got opened through all that struggling. God led me to the right person to help me and point a lot of things out. Hopefully, I can just continue to learn and keep making those changes. I'm not perfect. There's some stuff that I still want to continue to work on."

He's also relishing his time in Detroit. And although everyone wonders how long he can stay hot, or how often he'll get to play in a four-man outfield mix, he's just hoping he can keep contributing.

"You don't get too many chances, I feel like, to be on a team like this, to have a chance to go a long way," he said. "That's just the biggest thing for me. Whatever I've got to do to help us win."

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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