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V-Mart showing improvement with lefty swing

MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- The back-to-back left-handers the White Sox threw at the Tigers on Wednesday and Thursday were the ideal matchups for Victor Martinez to hit his way out of his early-season slump. The weekend matchups with Royals right-handers seemingly were not.

Yet as Martinez slowly jogged into second base on Saturday, having unleashed a sixth-inning drive to the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center field at Comerica Park, he had another glimpse of last year's Martinez. His leadoff double in the sixth of a 6-2 loss to the Royals was his first extra-base hit against a right-handed pitcher this season.

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DETROIT -- The back-to-back left-handers the White Sox threw at the Tigers on Wednesday and Thursday were the ideal matchups for Victor Martinez to hit his way out of his early-season slump. The weekend matchups with Royals right-handers seemingly were not.

Yet as Martinez slowly jogged into second base on Saturday, having unleashed a sixth-inning drive to the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center field at Comerica Park, he had another glimpse of last year's Martinez. His leadoff double in the sixth of a 6-2 loss to the Royals was his first extra-base hit against a right-handed pitcher this season.

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When Martinez has looked great this year, it has tended to come when batting right-handed, when he doesn't have to put much weight on his surgically-repaired left knee. Swinging left-handed has been the challenge. At one point, his left-handed swing produced such rough results that some wondered whether Martinez should bat right-handed all the time, but Martinez said it wasn't a consideration.

"Never," he said.

On Saturday, the swing looked easier, even if the running part wasn't.

"It's getting better," Martinez said. "It's getting a lot better. I work on it every day."

Asked if it was satisfying, Martinez said, "I'm not going to lie, it is. I'm still not where I want to be right now, but at least I'm able to go out there and compete and have good at-bats, and help the team."

Beyond the double off Jeremy Guthrie, Martinez lined a Guthrie pitch off the right-field wall, hard enough that speedy Jarrod Dyson had to backtrack and run it down in medium-range right field. Martinez had no chance at extra bases, if only for the knee.

"Those are probably the best two balls he's hit all year from the left side," manager Brad Ausmus said. "It's a good sign for us and for Victor."

Martinez has raised his batting average from .203 on Tuesday to .245 entering Sunday night's series finale against the Royals. He's batting .462 (12-for-26) against left-handed pitching, compared with .162 (11-for-68) off righties.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers, Victor Martinez