Resurgent Martinez makes Hens' history

A month after release, Tigers farmhand records home run hat trick

J.D. Martinez leads the Minor Leagues with 10 homers and ranks second with 22 RBIs. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

By Robert Emrich / | April 19, 2014 11:01 PM ET

A month after finding himself out of a job, J.D. Martinez had the greatest day of his career.

The Tigers farmhand slugged three homers in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday, then hit another in the nightcap as Triple-A Toledo completed a sweep of Columbus.

In the opener, Martinez ripped a two-run homer in the first inning, a solo shot in the third and a two-run blast in the fifth, finishing with five RBIs in the Mud Hens' 8-1 victory. In the second game, the 26-year-old outfielder smacked a two-run homer in the opening inning and walked twice as Toledo held on for a 7-6 win.

"It feels good," Martinez said. "The whole day, I was trying to hit the ball solid -- that's all I was thinking. It [the last home run] went out and it was just funny. Everybody was, they didn't even come up to me to say good job anymore, they were just sitting on the bench like, 'Yeah, we're done with you, you did this too many times.'"

Martinez, a 2009 20th-round Draft pick by the Astros, was released by Houston on March 22 and signed a Minor League deal with Detroit two days later. Over the last three days, the Florida native has hit five homers and driven in eight runs, giving him the Minor League lead with 10 longballs and leaving him second with 22 RBIs.

"I made an adjustment in my swing this offseason," Martinez said. "My new adjustments, when I hit I feel like I hit it on the barrel. I just can't explain. Before, I used to square the ball up and it would be a double or single. Now I feel like they aren't staying down, they're going up. Everything is in the air now.

"I really wasn't getting much of the opportunity there [with the Astros]. They kind of already had the way they were going and the at-bats, if you look at my Spring Training at-bats, yeah, I had 18, but 13 or 14 of them were off the bench. It was hard for me to get my timing that way."

For Martinez, the biggest thing is using his new swing -- and new home -- to get a second chance at the Majors. In 252 big league games, he owns a .250/.300/.387 slash line with 24 homers and 126 RBIs.

"I'm excited about the new opportunity in Detroit," Martinez said. "I'm just kind of focused on helping the Mud Hens win every day, just trying to do my best and get another chance to get back to The Show."

It was the first three-homer game of Martinez's career, though he fell one short of tying his career high of six RBIs, which he's done twice, most recently on April 13. It was the Mud Hens' first three-homer game since Brad Eldred managed the feat on April 24, 2012.

Duane Below was the beneficiary of Martinez's outburst in the first game, improving to 2-0 after allowing one run on five hits over five innings.

Tyler Collins, the Tigers' No. 17 prospect, homered and drove in three runs in the nightcap.

Jesus Aguilar, the Indians' 19th-ranked prospect, went 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs in the second game and is batting .370 for Columbus.

Robert Emrich is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @RobertEmrich. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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