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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
Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter both could have been members of this Red Sox team. (AP)

Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter both could have been members of this Red Sox team. (AP)

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.

“They did, but like I say, you have to look out for your family,” said Martinez when asked if the Red Sox made an offer. “That’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.

“Yes, I thought I had a lot of chances to come back,” Martinez said. “But 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.

“At 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.

“It’s tough losing the whole year,” he said. “When 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.

“There was talk with Boston. There were other teams,” he explained. “There 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.

“I 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. “Everything 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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