V-Mart focused on improving, not 200th HR

Tigers' DH becomes sixth Venezuelan to reach plateau

V-Mart focused on improving, not 200th HR

DETROIT -- This season has not been kind to Victor Martinez, who went from finishing runner-up for the American League MVP Award last year to posting some of the worst offensive numbers of his career.

Detroit's 7-4 victory over the White Sox on Wednesday provided at least one highlight for the designated hitter. He lined a two-run shot in the first inning to reach the 200-homer plateau, becoming just the sixth Venezuelan-born player to achieve that milestone.

"I knew [about the milestone]," Martinez said. "But obviously, I'm not looking for homers; I'm looking to get hits. It felt great, but the most important part was that we were able to pull out a win."

Tigers staff members were able to retrieve the ball, which Martinez said he will keep alongside those from his first and 100th home runs. He joins Tony Armas, Bobby Abreu, former Tiger Magglio Ordoñez, Andres Galarraga and teammate Miguel Cabrera -- who leads the group with 407 career bombs -- as Venezuelans with 200 or more Major League homers.

But even on a momentous day, Martinez refrained from any amount of self-adulation. Instead, he reflected on what has been a difficult campaign.

"This year has been ... a really frustrating year, from a personal aspect," he said. "I expect a lot out of myself, and there's a lot of times I don't get to enjoy the game like I'm supposed to, but I'm just going out there and trying to see the ball up, and put a good swing."

Some of those struggles can be attributed to injuries. Martinez had offseason surgery to repair a torn meniscus, and in May he was placed on the disabled list with inflammation in that same left knee. He admitted earlier this month to picking up bad swing habits in an attempt to reduce stress on his legs.

Recently, though, the five-time All-Star has begun barreling the ball better. He's hitting .314 over his last 15 games, a span that includes just four strikeouts.

"We've looked at a lot of things with Victor," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "Despite the off year for him, things have trended upward in a number of categories second half.

Ausmus said Martinez's bad habits still "creep in once in a while," but the manager is encouraged with harder-hit balls off the slugger's bat.

Martinez demonstrated that Wednesday with his 11th homer of the season -- even if he didn't want to celebrate it.

Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.