On the comeback trail: Roy Halladay, Mariano Rivera and Victor Martinez

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

Here's the great thing about spring training. It's a chance to start over -- whether you're a young guy in a new city trying to right yourself or a vet coming off a bummer year hoping to find your old form.

Today, we peek in on three established stars who are on the comeback trail in 2013: Roy Halladay, Mariano Rivera and Victor Martinez.

We'll start with Halladay, the (once?) Philadelphia Phillies ace, who went 11-8 in an out-of-character, injury-prone 2012 where his ERA ballooned to 4.49. But it's a new year and Halladay told reporters today: "I feel as good now as I have any other spring training." He also gave a sort-of "World Series or Bust" declaration: "I'm playing to win a World Series. That's why I'm playing baseball. That's all that matters. Period."

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Here's more on Halladay from Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

"There is no such thing as a crystal ball," Halladay said. "But I'm confident that if I can maintain the way I feel right now that I'm going to be effective."

In his first public comments since last season ended, he cited a previously undisclosed lower back injury that led to shoulder problems and one of the worst years in his storied career. Halladay claimed he did not reveal that injury because he did not know exactly what the cause was.

He spent six weeks on the disabled list with a strained muscle in the rear of his shoulder. Usually, that is a problematic area for pitchers. The Phillies long stressed there were no structural red flags contained in multiple examinations of Halladay's shoulder. The back injury lends credence to that theory.

Amid all the uncertainly with the New York Yankees this season, closer Mariano Rivera has added another mystery: His future.

Rivera, 43 and returning after a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury, says he has made a decision about whether he'll retire after this season. Only he's not telling us yet. (Smart money is on yes). He'll announce his decision before the regular season starts.

In the meantime, the all-time saves leader, says he's ready to once again be the closer that all of baseball knows. More from Bob Nightengale at USA Today:

"I'm definitely expecting good things,'' Rivera says. "That's what I always demand of myself. I'm looking for that, or else I wouldn't be here. I want to help this team as much as I can. If I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing, I'm not helping at all.''

Rivera, who excitedly greeted his teammates throughout their first workout, and showed no signs of discomfort, says he never once considered retirement.

"I don't think that way,'' he said. "I'm a positive man. So I always think positive. Many times I had a lot of soreness, pain,'' Rivera said, "but it never went through my mind that I don't want to do it again. It's not easy. You have to definitely work at it and get it done. And that's what I'm doing.''

Victor Martinez is looking at the biggest comeback of the three. He hasn't played since the 2011 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in left knee during the offseason. Martinez mostly stayed away from his Detroit Tigers teammates during their 2012 World Series season because he says he couldn't stand to be around them and not play.

[Baseball 2013 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]

Still, Martinez is calling 2012 the best year of his life. Chris Iott of MLive.com has more, in a rather candid interview with Martinez:

Martinez wore a knee brace Tuesday, which also marked the first time he had put on a Tigers uniform since the end of the 2011 season. He said the brace "might just be a mental thing" and hopes to shed it in the coming weeks. He worked out and took swings from both sides of the plate and said he felt great.

Martinez said it was difficult to watch the Tigers compete in the playoffs last year while he was rehabbing at home in Orlando. But he is pretty sure he will get another chance to win it all with the Tigers.

"I'm 100 percent confident the guys are going to give me a chance to play in the World Series," he said.

Martinez hopes to play catcher again during interleague games, which makes his comeback from knee surgery even more daunting.

Spring training is here. Stretch out with us.
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