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Notes: Martinez makes most of return

Notes: Martinez makes most of return

NEW YORK -- Victor Martinez admits he's no speed demon.

So when the catcher told reporters that he can run the bases at 85 percent speed, he knew that wasn't saying much, really.

"If I told you 85 or 100 percent," Martinez said, "you wouldn't really know the difference."

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But Martinez's ability to run at 85 percent, 11 days after straining his left quadriceps muscle, was part of what made him eligible to return to the starting lineup on Tuesday in the series opener against the Yankees. He batted cleanup and played backstop, and recorded an RBI in his first at-bat, plating Grady Sizemore on a groundout in the first inning.

"He worked real hard to get back," manager Eric Wedge said. "We'll take it day to day and go from there. He has to be smart [with how much stress he puts on the leg]. We talked to him about that. But we had him do everything [in workouts]. He's swung the bat, he's thrown to second base, he's played at first base and he's run the bases."

Aided by the four postponed home games against the Mariners, Martinez successfully avoided a trip to the 15-day disabled list. Backup Kelly Shoppach started each of the six games in his absence.

The bitterly cold Cleveland conditions are believed to have contributed to the injury, and the cold also kept Martinez off the field on Sunday, even though he was physically ready to participate. Martinez, who came into Tuesday batting .500 (6-for-12) with five RBIs, knows he'll have to ensure that his body stays loose throughout another chilly series at Yankee Stadium.

"When it's freezing, it's not easy to go out and move around," he said. "You have to keep stretching. As a catcher, you're kind of warmer than the other guys, but you can't take anything for granted."

Disturbing day: Paul Byrd often finds himself wondering what kind of world he's raising his children in. Incidents such as Monday's mass murder at Virginia Tech give Byrd and parents everywhere the same reason for concern.

"I have two sons, 9 and 10 years old," Byrd said. "I can't imagine losing them in college, which is supposed to be one of the most fun times of their life, to some madman."

Yankee Stadium, as did every other ballpark in the country, held a moment of silence before Tuesday's game for the 32 people killed and 15 wounded in the senseless tragedy.

Byrd watched the reports on the killings as they filtered in during Monday's off-day, but said that he generally can't even stand to watch the nightly news because of all the reports of violence that so often fill the broadcasts.

"The world's changing," he said. "I'm not announcing the end of the world or anything, but it seems like every other day, something outlandish happens in this world."

Third-base coach Joel Skinner has two daughters in college, so Monday's events hit home with him.

"It's incomprehensible," Skinner said.

Shop talk: Skinner and the rest of the Indians were impressed with the way Shoppach filled in for Martinez.

"The best compliment you can give," Skinner said, "is that you didn't notice anything was different."

No, Shoppach couldn't replicate what Martinez brings to the cleanup spot. But he did notch a big two-run homer against the Angels on April 10, and he showed a better understanding of situational hitting, Wedge said.

Of course, the real strength of Shoppach's game is what he does behind the plate, where he has a stronger arm than Martinez and has also made strides at calling a game.

"He did a great job for us," Wedge said. "He handled all the pitchers well."

Here's the question: In Game 1 of the 1997 American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium, the Indians became the first team in postseason history to allow back-to-back-to-back homers. Which Yankees hit those three homers?

Cliff notes: Cliff Lee threw three scoreless innings in an extended Spring Training game in Winter Haven, Fla., on Monday, giving up two hits and no walks and striking out six. Most important, he felt no pain in the right abdominal muscle that he strained in February, forcing him to open the season on the DL.

Next up for Lee is a bullpen session on Wednesday, followed by his third rehab outing on Saturday at a site yet to be determined. Wedge said that Lee might make that start at Triple-A Buffalo. The left-hander will throw 65 to 70 pitches in that start.

It's expected that Lee would make at least one more rehab appearance beyond that outing before being activated by the club.

Tribe tidbits: Outside Spring Training play, the Indians have never faced any of the three starters the Yankees will trot out for this three-game series -- left-hander Chase Wright (Tuesday), left-hander Kei Igawa (Wednesday) and right-hander Darrell Rasner. "We've done the best we can with the scouting reports," Wedge said. "We'll react to what we see and make adjustments as we see fit. It's an odd situation." The Indians did face Igawa this spring. ... The Indians entered Tuesday's action with a 377-574 (.396) record in their history at Yankee Stadium. The club has not won a series outright in the building since taking three of four games in the 2000 season. ... Shortstop Jhonny Peralta reached base in each of the Indians' first nine games. ... Wedge's daughter, Ava Catherine, celebrated her first birthday on Tuesday.

Down on the farm: Buffalo improved to 7-1 overall with its 17-1 thumping of Columbus on Monday. Right-hander Brian Slocum gave up a run on three hits over five innings, while first baseman Ryan Mulhern drove in six runs, outfielder Jason Cooper drove in five and designated hitter Ben Francisco drove in three. ... Double-A Akron right-hander J.D. Martin gave up three runs on six hits in three innings, and the Aeros were defeated, 6-4, by Erie. Infielder Rodney Choy Foo was named the Eastern League player of the week after batting .524 (11-for-21) with two homers, including a grand slam, and nine RBIs last week. ... Class A Lake County split a doubleheader with Lexington. Right-hander Hector Rondon gave up just two hits over six scoreless innings to earn the 8-0 win in the first game, but right-hander Michael Eisenberg surrendered four runs on six hits over four innings to take the 4-3 loss in the nightcap.

And the answer is ...: Tim Raines, Derek Jeter and Paul O'Neill hit the consecutive homers in the sixth inning of an eventual 8-6 win over the Tribe. But the Indians had the last laugh in the five-game series.

On deck: The Indians and Yanks continue their three-game set with Wednesday's 7:05 p.m. ET game. Left-hander Jeremy Sowers (0-0, 2.08 ERA) will make his first career appearance at Yankee Stadium. Igawa starts for New York.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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