CLEVELAND -- Victor Martinez's first goal for the remainder of the season is to prove he's fully healthy and recovered from his right elbow and left hamstring problems. But he'd be lying if he said he didn't have at least one other goal. Martinez has yet to hit a home run of 2008. Now that he was activated off the disabled list Friday after missing two and a half months following elbow surgery, he has 29 games left to eliminate that dubious distinction.
"I would like to," said Martinez, who was in the lineup at first base against the Mariners. "I won't try to, but I'd like to. Whatever happens, happens." What happened to Martinez's power? Well, he strained his hamstring on Opening Day, for one. The Indians think that affected him at the plate for the next two and a half months. And in mid-May, the right elbow that would flare up on Martinez from time to time over the last few seasons became more than a nagging concern. It swelled up during a series against the Reds and the swelling would not go down. Martinez played the next month with bone chips floating around in his elbow, and the pain became unbearable. So did Martinez's numbers. After batting .350 in April, Martinez hit just .221 in May and was batting .200 in June, before the Indians placed him on the DL on June 12. He had surgery the following day. After two and a half months of rehab, including eight games at Double-A Akron and Triple-A Buffalo, Martinez was finally ready to return Friday. The smile on his face said it all. "It feels nice to come back," he said. "It's tough when you're used to playing every day. But it was out of my hands." How Martinez will be used now that he's back is also out of his hands. That's manager Eric Wedge's call, and Wedge plans to give Martinez no more than two starts a week behind the plate, so that the Indians can ease the amount of wear and tear placed on his elbow. It also doesn't hurt that backup catcher Kelly Shoppach, who is batting .263 with 17 homers and 46 RBIs, is playing so well. But Wedge said the Indians would be taking this cautious approach with Martinez, regardless. Martinez, who likely won't catch until early next week, will be at first and DH for the bulk of what remains this season. "We want to make sure that injury is behind him," Wedge said. "We want to get to the point where he feels good about it and we feel good about it." Martinez said he had no problem being a part-time catcher, for the time being. "I'm good with that," he said. "Hopefully by the end of the month, I'll be playing a little more. Kelly's doing a great job right now, and he deserves to play." The Indians, though, felt Martinez was ready enough to play that they decided to call him up now, rather than waiting until Monday, when rosters expand. To make room for Martinez, the club designated seldom-used utility man Andy Gonzalez for assignment. "[Martinez's] far enough along," Wedge said, "to the point where we want to get a look at him up here." Martinez looked and felt good during his rehab stint, during which he hit .308 (8-for-26) with a homer and three RBIs. Yep, that's right. He did hit a homer. It came during his brief stint in Double-A. "Finally," Martinez said with a laugh. Now that he's back in the bigs, Martinez hopes he can finally hit one up here. If he does, he'll help an Indians team that was right on the verge of its lowest point when Martinez went down and is now in the midst of its hottest stretch of play, having won 10 straight and 16 of 19 entering Friday. "You never know what's going to happen," Martinez said. "You might see the biggest comeback in history. Who knows?"
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.