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Martinez making return Classic trip

Martinez making return Classic trip

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CLEVELAND -- Victor Martinez has been a force in the Indians' lineup in the first half after his return from 2008's injury woes.

As a result, he's making another return -- to the Midsummer Classic.

Martinez will be the Tribe's lone representative at the 2009 All-Star Game, which takes place Tuesday, July 14, at St. Louis' Busch Stadium. Martinez was named a reserve on the American League team as a result of player balloting. The rosters were announced Sunday on the MLB All-Star Selection Show presented by Pepsi.

This will be Martinez's third trip to the All-Star Game. He also represented the Tribe in 2004 and '07. In his lone All-Star at-bat, in San Francisco in '07, he hit the two-run homer that ended up serving as the difference in the AL's 5-4 victory.

"That's always good news," Martinez said of his selection. "Unfortunately I'll be the only one on the team that's going to be there. You always expect to be there with somebody else. But it's another experience I look forward to."

The 80th MLB All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.

Martinez, 30, earned the honor of returning to the All-Star Game with a strong first half in which he's essentially split his time between his custom catching spot and first base. He's batting .303 with 14 homers, 19 doubles, a triple, 57 RBIs and an .888 OPS.

When the season started, Martinez was playing like a man possessed after spending the bulk of the '08 season either playing in pain or sitting on the disabled list. He strained his hamstring on Opening Day of last year and also played with bone chips in his right elbow. He had surgery on the elbow in mid-June and missed the next two and a half months of action.

This year, Martinez reported to camp at full health and strength and ready to put '08 behind him. He did so in a hurry, batting .386 with a 1.082 OPS in the month of April and .321 with an .881 OPS in the month of May.

Martinez has slowed down after his hot start. He hit .240 in June, and he entered Sunday's play in the midst of a 4-for-46 funk.

"Everybody would like to hit .400 or .380 the whole year," Martinez said. "You have to keep your head up and keep working hard and keep letting things happen."

It could be that Martinez is wearing down after starting 80 of the team's first 83 games, but he said he's feeling fine physically.

"The only thing I'm happy about right now is my body is healthy," Martinez said. "The rest of the things [numbers] take care of themselves."

Even on his worst days at the plate, Martinez remains a leader in the Tribe's clubhouse. And he had to bear the burden in the lineup when Travis Hafner, Grady Sizmore and Asdrubal Cabrera missed significant time due to injuries.

"He's had an All-Star first half," manager Eric Wedge said of Martinez. "He's done everything we've asked him to do. With all the injuries, he's stepped up time and time again."

Wedge gave Martinez a day out of the starting lineup Sunday, pairing it with Monday's off-day. Wedge hopes such rest will help Martinez recover from his recent rough patch. He's also expecting Martinez to get more frequent starts behind the plate in the second half.

As for the All-Star Game experience, Martinez, who expressed no interest in participating in the Home Run Derby, said he's looking forward to once again sharing it with his family. And he was particularly pleased to learn he had been selected to the roster as a result of player balloting.

"Last time, I was picked by the manager," Martinez said. "I still had fun, but when you get voted in by the players, it shows you that they respect you and how you play the game."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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