Martinez eager to test left hand by swinging bat

HOUSTON -- Four months after undergoing surgery to remove the hook of the hamate bone in his left hand, Astros outfielder J.D. Martinez is anxious to get to Spring Training to see how the hand responds while swinging a bat regularly.

"I really haven't been able to swing that much yet, but I feel like it's right there and really close," he said. "I'm trying to rest it as much as I can now because I know when Spring Training starts, it's going to be non-stop. I feel like I'll be ready and it will be strong enough for me to do what I have to do."

Martinez, the Astros' Opening Day starter in left field a year ago, struggled for the first time in his pro career and was sent to the Minor Leagues. He hit .241 with 11 homers and 55 RBIs in 395 at-bats last season with the Astros after hitting .274 with six homers and 35 RBIs in 208 at-bats in his debut in 2011.

While he hasn't been able to swing the bat much this winter, he has been able to put in some defensive work with Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay at the University of Miami. Martinez's father went to school with Jay's father in South Florida.

"He's a really good outfielder and someone that knows the game for how young he is," Martinez said. "It's been great since the first day I met him. He's been helping me out tremendously."