NEW YORK -- Victor Martinez knew his rehab was going to end eventually, that the left knee inflammation that landed him on the disabled list would desist and he could get back on the field. On Friday, exactly a month after being placed on the DL, Martinez went 1-for-4 in his return to the lineup during the Tigers' 7-2 loss to the Yankees.
"You know when something's hurt, eventually it's going to get better," he said. "It's not going to stay hurt the rest of your life."
That didn't make the process any easier. The Tigers' designated hitter slogged through a full month of rehab, including a four-game stint with Triple-A Toledo. The whole time, he pulled himself away from his teammates to stay focused on rejoining them.
"Every time I'm around, it's tough," he said. "I wanted to swing a bat, I wanted to do things. It's just tough not being around the guys."
Martinez started the season slowly before the injury shelved him, partly because of that knee. He had surgery in February to fix a torn meniscus but was in the lineup by Opening Day. By mid-May, the knee had started to swell, and Martinez missed a month.
He admitted he rushed himself back to the lineup in April before he was fully healthy, which may have contributed to the second injury.
"But now it's all over," he said. "We're here."
Martinez led off the second inning on Friday with a base hit to right field. He tested the knee shortly after, when a Yoenis Cespedes double forced him to go from first to third, and he showed no signs of discomfort. He eventually scored.
Manager Brad Ausmus called Martinez's performance one of the bright spots on the night, and he said he looked better than he had before his DL stint. Ausmus said the club missed Martinez's intensity and focus as much as his bat.
The veteran slugger wouldn't admit to that, but he said he was ready to make an immediate impact on the field.
"I'm not hoping that it is going to take me a minute or whatever," Martinez said. "I'm hoping to come here and start to do what I'm supposed to do."
Alden Woods is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.