DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers played well without him, but they are certainly happy to have Victor Martinez back in the lineup.
Martinez has not played since July 4 and missed 11 of the previous 13 games due to soreness in his side.
But after resting during the All-Star break, Martinez feels ready to go.
"It feels great," Martinez said. "Body feels great again. Just happy to be part of it."
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said they wanted to be cautious with Martinez.
"We were just talking about how you kind of hold your breath with this type of injury," Ausmus said. "But he says he doesn’t feel anything at all. There’s some things that he’d felt earlier — if he coughed he’d feel it — and he doesn’t feel that at all. He didn’t feel it at all hitting. He took soft-toss and he took early batting practice. He felt good. He is adamant that he is 100 percent, ready to go."
Martinez missed the three-game sweep of Oakland, then tried to return for the first two games against Tampa Bay. He had to leave the second game early.
"That time when I tried to come back, I aggravated it a lot more," Martinez said. "It’s not fun. If it’s pain or so sore that I can’t handle it, that one I wasn’t able to do anything, not even run. I know running isn’t important at all, but that’s how bad it was."
As the designated hitter, Martinez sometimes has too much time on his hands. The Tigers are asking him to limit his extra work for now.
"He swings the bat non-stop between at-bats, when he’s DHing," Ausmus said. "He hits before batting practice, he hits after batting practice — we told him to back off a little and watch the workload, just from a stress perspective."
He is adamant that he is 100 percent, ready to go.
The Tigers went 8-3 without Martinez before the break.
"It’s fun but at the same time it makes you feel a little desperate, too," Martinez said. "You want to be part of it. I always want to be part of a winning team. But at the same time, it was a lot of fun to watch what they did."
Martinez attended the All-Star Game and the surrounding festivities but did not play.
"I had fun," Martinez. Just watched my family, my son having a blast. That was all for me. About playing in the All-Star Game, I’d rather be sure that I was going to be able to be 100 percent to finish out the season strong. It’s more important that I be 100 percent for the team the rest of the season."
DIRKS DOING OK
There was some alarm when outfielder Andy Dirks was recalled from his rehabilitation assignment and remained on the disabled list.
Dirks underwent microdiscectomy surgery on March 10.
Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said it’s not so much a setback as it is a precaution to make sure Dirks is able to take full advantage of his 20 days of rehab.
"He’s a lot better," Rand said. "He’s moving in the right direction. It’s kind of things you go through sometimes in rehabilitation. If it wasn’t for the fact that he’s missed obviously so much time and this was kind of his spring training, normal rehab assignment you’d probably say just give it a couple days, you’re still gonna get the at-bats we need."
Dirks told Rand that he lacked his usual first-step quickness because of the extra soreness.
"Basically he got muscular soreness, tightness right in and around the surgical site. Not unusual," Rand said. "We contacted Dr. (Thomas) Tolli (the surgeon who operated on Dirks) about it. He felt it’s just normal during the course of the rehab, basically due to the increase in activity."
Dirks will continue with treatment and rehab activity until they determine he’s ready to go back to playing games.
"Based on talking to Dr. Tolli, we thought it’d probably be good in a week or so," Rand said.
Where Dirks goes for his next rehab depends on the schedule. Rand said they’d prefer him to be with whatever team is at home, whether that’s Lakeland, Erie, Toledo, West Michigan or wherever.
HANRAHAN MAKING SLOW PROGRESS
Tigers fans counting on Joel Hanrahan to contribute this season might be disappointed.
Hanrahan has yet to face live hitting.
"Hanrahan threw a bullpen today and he’s thrown bullpens the last two weeks," Rand said. "They’ve gotten incrementally a little bit better but not to where they really need to be yet."
Hanrahan threw 40 pitches Friday. Rand said his bullpens have all been in the 25-40-pitch range.
STAYING IN LAKELAND
Just as Dirks is staying in Lakeland for now, so are the Tigers.
The team announced Friday that they’ve agreed to extend the long-standing relationship with the city of Lakeland for 20 more years.
The current agreement runs through Dec. 31, 2016 so now spring training, Single-A Lakeland Flying Tigers and the rehabilitative program at Joker Marchant Stadium and the TigerTown complex will run through 2036.