Martinez excited to be back with Tigers to face Angels

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The was no “welcome back” party, though you know it felt that way for the Detroit Tigers.

The Tigers welcomed back J.D. Martinez to the starting lineup Friday night against the Los Angeles Angels for the first time this season. He suffered a strained ligament in his right foot during spring training and missed the club’s first 33 games.

“I’m excited to be here,” Martinez told MLB.com. “This is what I train in the offseason for. I’ve just been at home, watching the games, going crazy, just dying to get back.”

Martinez went 1-for-3 with a single and two strikeouts Friday and made an error in right field. Still, the Tigers are happy to have him back considering what he brings to a lineup that has missed Miguel Cabrera and Ian Kinsler for stretches this year.

Martinez should be in the lineup again Saturday if his success against Angels starter Ricky Nolasco has anything to do with it. Martinez has a career .375 (9-for-24) average against Nolasco, including a double, triple and two RBIs.

Justin Upton (11-for-25), Victor Martinez (8-for-20) and Kinsler (9-for-30) also have hit Nolasco well.

Nolasco, though, is coming off his best start of the season against Oakland last Monday. He went a season-best seven innings, allowed two runs and five hits, struck out 10 and walked none.

Nolasco said it’s a matter of keeping things simple.

“Just trying to make pitches and put myself in good counts,” Nolasco told MLB.com.

While the Tigers are happy to have Martinez back, it is even sooner than they had planned. Outfielder Jim Adduci suffered a strained oblique during batting practice Thursday and the Tigers sent for Martinez, who was on a rehab assignment for Triple-A Toledo.

Martinez likely would have remained with Toledo though the weekend if not for the injury to Adduci.

“Once this happened (Adduci’s injury), it was really a no-brainer,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus told reporters. “There might be some residual soreness in the foot, but he feels fine moving around. He was hoping to get more at-bats in terms of preparation, but he had over 50 at-bats (including the rehab assignment and extended spring).”

Martinez had the best season of his career in 2015 with the Tigers, batting .282 with 38 homers and 102 RBIs. Last year, he hit .307 with 22 homers and 68 RBIs in 120 games.

He’s an everyday player when healthy, but Ausmus said he will keep a close eye on him.

“We’re going to consult him, see how he feels, see how he’s moving,” Ausmus told mlb.com. “If it seems like he’s not moving great in the outfield and around the bases, there may be situations where we have to pinch-run for him or defend for him. We’ve just got to wait and see.”

Daniel Norris will start on the mound for the Tigers, but he’ll be pretty much a mystery to Angels hitters. Only three current Angels have ever faced him – Cameron Maybin (1-for-1), Andrelton Simmons (1-for-1) and Luis Valbuena (0-for-1) — all while playing for other teams. Norris has never faced the Angels.