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Martinez prepares to DH, excited to play for Tigers

DETROIT – As Victor Martinez prepares to spend more time at designated hitter, he can look back on advice he once received from former teammate Travis Hafner, who has been among baseball’s best at that specialized role.

“He told me that you have to do a lot. Maybe people think that it’s easy to be a DH. It’s hard,” Martinez said. “You have to keep warm. You’ve got to go into the weight room and run the bike and do stuff, stretch yourself. You can’t just sit there for a half an hour, an hour, until you get at bat again and just go out there and hit. It’s not like that.”

With a smile on his face and excitement in his voice, Martinez was at Comerica Park on Saturday for TigerFest, Detroit’s annual winter fan event. The Tigers signed Martinez this offseason, and they hope the 32-year-old switch-hitter will be part of a powerful middle of the batting order that also includes Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez.

Martinez has been a catcher throughout his career, but general manager Dave Dombrowski has said he’ll be the team’s primary DH.

“I came here to win,” Martinez said. “If they need me to play DH, I’ll be a DH. If they need me behind the plate, I’ll be behind the plate.”

Martinez hit .302 with 20 home runs and 79 RBIs in 127 games with Boston last season. If he produces like that again, it will be a nice boost for a Detroit team that is trying to contend for the A.L. Central title.

Perhaps the one concern surrounding Martinez is his career .225 average at Comerica Park. He’s hit only four homers there in 169 at-bats.

“I say myself, I’m not a home run hitter. I hit my 20, but I’m more a line drive hitter,” Martinez said. “I might hit some triples. Watch out.”

That’s quite a statement from Martinez, who has three triples in his career.

“I’m like a little kid with a new toy,” Martinez said. “I just want to get this thing started. I can’t wait. This is going to be a fun ride.”