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V-Mart to begin rehab stint Sunday

DETROIT -- Batting lefty, Victor Martinez drove a pitch into the right-field seats at Comerica Park.

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It wasn't live game action -- just Saturday afternoon's batting practice -- but the Tigers' designated hitter will take a big step toward rejoining the club by beginning a rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo on Sunday.

Martinez will join the Mud Hens in Pawtucket, then play with the Tigers' affiliate during a three-game series in Syracuse.

He'll be reevaluated after Wednesday's game. Detroit plays at Cincinnati on Thursday and then travels to New York for a three-game set against the Yankees.

"Assuming he feels fine and he's comfortable with where he is at the plate, we'll make a decision following the Syracuse series," said manager Brad Ausmus.

The 36-year-old switch-hitter was placed on the disabled list on May 19 with left knee inflammation. He had had surgery in January to repair a torn meniscus in that same knee, and he had looked hobbled at the plate earlier this season, batting just .216 with only one home run in 34 games.

The Tigers are 9-13 since Martinez last played.

"We need healthy Victor Martinez's bat," Ausmus said, "not an ailing Victor Martinez."

During Saturday's batting practice, Martinez demonstrated more power and looked more comfortable batting left-handed than right-handed. He then completed a series of running drills in left field without incident before stretching with a trainer.

Ausmus said the designated hitter has looked better in batting practice this week than he did during Spring Training, and Martinez's return would be a welcome addition to a club that has endured its share of offensive struggles this season.

"There's no question that he looks stronger," Ausmus said. " ... He's looked much better since he's returned."

Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for Follow him on Twitter @ByAZuniga.
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