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Minneapolis — In his second at-bat against Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey on Tuesday night, Victor Martinez turned on a fastball and banged it foul down the right-field line.

"That reminded me of the Victor of last year," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I even said something to Wally (Joyner) or Gene Lamont. I said, 'That's the first time I've seen Victor do that.' "

It was the meniscus in Martinez's left knee that was surgically repaired on Feb. 10. That is his back leg, his load leg, when he's batting left-handed. He has been struggling to keep his weight back on that leg when he starts his swing.

But, he did look more comfortable Tuesday. He flew out to right field in his second at-bat, pulled a ground ball into the shift in the sixth inning and then lined out to left in the ninth.

"I am getting a lot better," Martinez said after the game. "A lot better."

It's hard to tell sometimes when he runs. He's still moving cautiously. There are times, too, when he clearly aggravates the knee on a swing. He has not been able to drive the ball to the gaps with any power from either side of the plate. He only had one extra-base hit before Wednesday.

"He seems to be progressing," Ausmus said. "The limp is not as noticeable. When he's taking pitches he looks a little more comfortable. I think he's moving in the right direction."

Ausmus said he has never considered moving Martinez down in the batting order. He said it's important to have that left-handed bat in the four spot, behind Miguel Cabrera and in front of J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes — all right-handed hitters.

"The knee is getting stronger with the exercises he's doing with Kevin (Rand, trainer)," Ausmus said. "He's getting stronger and the pain is slowly dissipating and he is starting to be able to stay back more."

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/cmccosky

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