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J.D. Martinez makes his Mets debut after he was sidelined by back issues

 The Associated Press  |    Apr 26th, 2024 7:13pm EDT

NEW YORK (AP) — Six-time All-Star J.D. Martinez joined the New York Mets on Friday, more than a month after he signed and hopeful the back woes that delayed his debut are a thing of the past.

“I made it,” Martinez said with a grin at his locker.

Martinez batted fifth against the St. Louis Cardinals Friday night — in between former NL home run king Pete Alonso and former NL batting champ Jeff McNeil — and went 2-for-4 with an RBI double in a 4-2 loss.

“Just trying to go up there and be competitive, that was my whole thing today,” Martinez said after the game. “Just put the ball forward. I did it twice. The other ones, I didn’t put it forward.”

The Mets are hopeful Martinez, whose 291 homers since 2014 are the fifth-most in the majors, can lengthen a lineup that has scored three runs or fewer 13 times in 25 games this season.

“I’m not going to lie — writing that lineup and putting his name on the paper is a good feeling,” Mets manager Carlos Mendoza said before the game.

Martinez filled the Mets’ need for a designated hitter by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $12 million — with $7.5 million deferred in annual installments from 2034-38 — on March 23, six days before New York opened its season against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Martinez remained in Florida working himself into shape and played in three games for Class A St. Lucie before he needed a cortisone shot to address lower back tightness on April 9.

“I think I put too much emphasis on coming back and I tried to hurry back too quick and the body just wasn’t ready,” Martinez said.

Martinez resumed baseball activities April 15. He played two games this week for Triple-A Syracuse, going 3-for-8 with three RBIs.

“My body feels good and it’s one of those things where I feel like minor leagues will get you your timing, but there’s nothing like facing big league pitching,” Martinez said. “I’d rather just try to grind through it up here and help as much as I can and get my bearings here.”

Martinez missed time with back injuries in each of the previous two seasons with the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, though he said the season-long maintenance program he learned last year minimized the flare-ups. He knocked on the wood along his locker three times for emphasis.

“I was like, ‘Wow, I should have done this thing years ago,’” Martinez said.

Mendoza said he would likely give Martinez a day off every three or four games.

The Mets opened 0-5 before winning 12 of their next 15. New York then scored a combined three runs in three straight losses before an 8-2 win over the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday.

“If they’re struggling, I want to struggle with them,” Martinez said. “If they’re doing good, I want to do good with them. That’s part of being (on) a team. Unfortunately, signing so late, I didn’t really get to know the guys or hang out with them. But I’m here now and I’m hoping to make an impact.”

To make room for Martinez on the active roster, the Mets designated infielder Zack Short for assignment.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb