Victor Martinez is looking forward to it all.

The 20-minute drive from his house outside of Orlando to the Braves' ballpark in Lake Buena Vista; putting on his uniform for the Tigers' first exhibition game — but most of all, playing in his first game of any kind in more than a year after a knee injury cost him all of 2012.

"I finally woke up from that nightmare," he said Thursday of not being able to play for an entire season.

Martinez will be the Tigers' starting designated hitter when they play the Braves on Friday.

Manager Jim Leyland said his lineup for the opener will be as follows:

1. Quintin Berry, CF

2. Omar Infante, 2B

3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B

4. Prince Fielder, 1B

5. Victor Martinez, DH

6. Jhonny Peralta, SS

7. Brayan Pena, C

8. Avisail Garcia, RF

9. Nick Castellanos, LF

For their own individual reasons, each player is no doubt looking forward to having the exhibition games begin. But it would be understandable if Martinez's anticipation is the highest.

At this time a year ago, he didn't know he would miss all of 2012, but feared he would miss most of it. Having to call the whole thing off came later.

But now he's back, with no sign of the severity of what he went through in his recovery from left knee surgery — except for the brace he wears.

"I can't remember ever being as excited about a spring training game," Martinez said.

When asked what he would consider the biggest test of the knee, Martinez said only, "the first step is to hit the ball and see what happens. As soon as I hit the ball, it's going to be a great feeling."

Of Martinez' return to the lineup, even if it's only in an exhibition game, Leyland said, "He's one of those guys who has so much appreciation of the game, and likes to play it so much, that he's absolutely in hog heaven right now.



From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130221/SPORTS0104/302210439#ixzz2LYYxHGB5