Martin returns to Mariners' lineup

Martin returns to Mariners' lineup

SEATTLE -- The Mariners got a huge boost Friday, activating speedy center fielder Leonys Martin off the disabled list heading into a three-game A.L. West showdown with the first-place Rangers at Safeco Field.

Martin, on the disabled list retroactive to May 26 with a strained left hamstring, was batting ninth. To make room for him on the roster, Luis Sardinas was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma. Martin is the second injured regular to return this week as shortstop Ketel Marte came off the DL on Monday.

In Martin's absence, veteran Norichika Aoki shifted from left, starting 13 of 14 games in center. Sardinas was used mostly at short during Marte's absence. The Mariners were 5-9 without Martin in the lineup and fell out of first place in the AL West.

"It's been a long couple weeks, you're just trying to mix and match," manager Scott Servais said. "The guys did a commendable job, especially Aoki and kind of where we were at shortstop there for a while without Marte . They did well, but it's not the same, not having your regular guys out there. Hopefully at full strength, that will really help our defense and help our pitching along the way."

Martin, who injured his hamstring on a stolen base on May 25 against Oakland, was hitting .262 with a career-high nine home runs and 20 RBIs. He was on a tear at the time of his injury, hitting .353 over his last 20 games with five homers and 10 RBIs. He also shares the team lead in stolen bases with Marte with eight.

When Martin was injured, the Mariners were 1 1/2 games ahead of the Rangers, who they trail by four games going into Friday's opener. Martin was supposed to make a rehab appearance Thursday with Tacoma, but did not due to wet field conditions.

"That was the longest 15 days of my life," Martin said. "But, that's part of the game. It's a long season, a long way to go. We've got many games left to help my win ballgames."

Martin returns in time to face his former team, which swept three straight from the Mariners last weekend in Texas. Martin hit .260 in 2013 and .274 in 2014, but dipped to .219 last season before being sent to Triple-A, where his season ended in mid-August with a broken hand. He was acquired from the Rangers in an offseason trade.

Jim Hoehn is a contributor for based in Seattle. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.