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Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter look back at what could have been with Red Sox

10.12.13 at 9:01 am ET
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They are two that got away … but have returned.

Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter — key elements in the Tigers’€™ lineup as they head to Fenway Park for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series Saturday night ‘€“ both had talks with the Red Sox about potentially being part of this current club.

But neither could complete the commitment.

For Martinez, the negotiations came after spending 1 ½ seasons with the Red Sox, during which time he established himself as a team leader while hitting .313 with an .866 OPS.

But the Red Sox weren’€™t willing to offer the fourth year commitment the Tigers ended up giving Martinez courtesy a four-year, $50 million deal. The Sox envisioned Martinez as a catcher for a maximum of two more years, before sliding him into either first base or designated hitter.

‘€œThey did, but like I say, you have to look out for your family,’€ said Martinez when asked if the Red Sox made an offer. ‘€œThat’€™s a time in your career you might get that chance once. It didn’€™t work out and things happen for a reason.’€

So (even before the Red Sox dealt for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez) Martinez inked his deal with the Tigers, finding himself as their hottest hitter heading into the ALCS.

‘€œYes, I thought I had a lot of chances to come back,’€ Martinez said. ‘€œBut at the end it’€™s a business. I always say that I think that’€™s the sad part of the game. This game is so beautiful, but at the end it’€™s a business. Sometimes they want to do something and you have to take care of your family at the same time. That is what happened.

‘€œAt the same time I was really happy the way this organization treated me and my family. I always say this is a first-class organization, and I can’€™t say enough about the fans. They are one of the best fans in baseball. It was an honor for me to put on the Red Sox uniform. I never thought for me in my career I was going to be able to play for the Red Sox.’€

After missing ‘€™12 due to a torn ACL, Martinez has bounced back to play 159 games this season, hitting .301 with 14 home runs and an .785 OPS. The final numbers come as a result of a red-hot second half, in which he hit .361 with a .913 OPS.

For the American League Division Series, Martinez managed to go 9-for-20 (.450) with a 1.150 OPS.

‘€œIt’€™s tough losing the whole year,’€ he said. ‘€œWhen I first got to spring training I was facing pitchers that were throwing 87-88 and I was watching those pitches go by me like they were 95-97 mph. I think as the season was going on I was getting more and more comfortable, and my legs were getting stronger and stronger. I was able to use my legs like I did before. I see videos of early in season and I see at-bats now and I’€™m like, ‘€˜Wow! How many bats did I throw away?’€™ I never was easy. ‘€¦ It was a long, long road back.’€

As for Hunter, the outfielder had talks with the Red Sox (and his best friend in the game, David Ortiz) this past offseason before signing a two-year, $26 million deal with the Tigers.

‘€œThere was talk with Boston. There were other teams,’€ he explained. ‘€œThere isn’€™t any use talking about that, it’€™s over with.’€

Hunter finished ‘€™13 hitting .304 with 17 home runs and an .800 in 144 games.

There was some thought that Hunter viewed the Tigers simply as a better opportunity to win. But, as the 38-year-old explained, there were other factors, as well.

‘€œI was familiar with the Central. The travel was less. My son was 2 1/2 -3 hours away,’€ said Hunter, referencing Torii Jr., who currently plays football at the University of Notre Dame. ‘€œEverything was a perfect fit for the Tigers. I’€™ve been in their division forever. I played 11 seasons in that division. So to come and play with the Tigers and play with those guys ‘€¦ I was able to see my son a lot for the first time this year because I was close to him. That made a big difference. The pitching staff, of course, that doesn’€™t hurt ever. You’€™re talking about one of the best hitters on the planet in Miguel Cabrera. So, yeah, my homework was done.’€

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