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Next step for Tribe's Martinez? Catching

Next step for Tribe's Martinez? Catching

CLEVELAND -- Slowly but surely, Victor Martinez is working his way back into the Indians' lineup.

Martinez returned to the lineup at first base Friday for the first time since June 12. He pinch-hit in the 10th inning of Saturday's 4-3 loss and was back at first base Sunday.

Martinez worked on throwing from behind the plate prior to Sunday's game. He might catch in a game against the White Sox this week. If all goes well, Martinez will catch a couple of times a week and either play first base or designated hitter in the other two or three games he plays per week as the season winds down.

Martinez, who had been battling a left hamstring injury since Opening Day, underwent surgery on his right elbow June 13. He began a Minor League rehab stint earlier this month, playing a total of eight rehab games at Triple-A Buffalo and Double-A Akron.

Indians manager Eric Wedge is happy to have Martinez back but doesn't want to push him along too quickly. Seeing how much the switch-hitter means to the club -- Martinez has hit over .300 and has averaged 96 RBIs the last three seasons -- it's easy to see why the Indians want to take their time.

"We're seeing what we need to see from him," Wedge said. "We want to make sure the injury is behind him."

The next goal will be to have Martinez play on back-to-back days. It's probably something he could do right now, but, again, the Indians want to err on the side of caution.

"We'll get to that point eventually," Wedge said. "We'll see how he does as we go along."

Martinez batted fifth Friday, going 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored. His hit was an eight-inning single. Martinez grounded out to end Saturday's game. He batted third Sunday, narrowly missing his first home run of the season when he doubled high off the wall in left field in the first inning.

Prior to his elbow injury, Martinez made 41 of his 51 starts from the cleanup spot.. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta emerged as a presence in the fourth spot while Martinez was out, batting .322 with 10 homers and 49 RBIs in 65 games since being moved to cleanup June 22.

"With the way Jhonny has been hitting there, it doesn't make sense to move him," Wedge said.

Steve Herrick is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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