Ausmus thinks knee may be root of V-Mart's struggles

Ausmus thinks knee may be root of V-Mart's struggles

TORONTO -- Victor Martinez started at first base on Saturday for the fourth time in nine games, this time on the spongy artificial surface at Rogers Centre, a sign that his troublesome left knee isn't bothering him. That doesn't mean it's at full strength.

Given Martinez's struggles at the plate, manager Brad Ausmus isn't sure he's fully recovered from the meniscus tear, which required surgery in February. He has recovered enough to play without trouble, but probably not enough to play the way he or the Tigers expect.

"Victor was so good at getting good swings on the ball, even on balls up last year," Ausmus said. "I don't know if this year's really indicative, because I just don't think Victor, from the time he injured his knee, I don't know if Victor was ever right."

After a midsummer resurgence following a stint on the disabled list to strengthen the knee, Martinez is batting under .200 since the All-Star break and around .200 for August. He has driven in more runs in August than he did in April and May combined, but pitchers have attacked him more aggressively -- elevating fastballs he has had trouble hitting with authority.

"You talk to people that have had knee surgeries, sometimes they say it takes a year [to feel right]," Ausmus said. "He's not hurting, he doesn't feel any pain, but it's just not right -- whether it's weakness or it's throwing his mechanics off. I just don't think he's ever been right since the injury, and it might take an offseason to get him right."

In other injury news ...

Daniel Norris said on Saturday he's feeling improvement in his strained right oblique, and could be cleared to begin playing catch again early next week while the Tigers are in Kansas City. If he continues to progress, he could conceivably return to the rotation later in September. The Tigers, while acknowledging they could shelve him for the season, haven't made that decision yet, and likely won't be pressed to do so unless they need a 40-man roster spot for a callup once the Minor League season ends on Sept. 7.

• Kyle Lobstein, sidelined since mid-May with left shoulder soreness, is scheduled to make his sixth rehab start on Sunday for Triple-A Toledo. If he pitches well, he could get a September callup, though the Tigers would have to clear a 40-man roster spot for him.

• Ausmus said Tigers officials are still debating the possibility of skipping Matt Boyd for a turn through the rotation in order to watch his innings, but that won't happen this turn. The Tigers will keep their rotation in order following Monday's off-day in Kansas City.

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