Rafael Furcal’s long road back to the majors ended on Friday.
Furcal, 36, played in his first game in almost two years when the Marlins activated him before their game against the Pirates. Furcal led off and started at second base.
“I’m excited to be here in Miami, playing for the Marlins,’’ said Furcal, whose previous game came with the Cardinals on August 30, 2012.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment to be with the team. It’s been tough, a long time. I wanted to be with the team from the begining of the season, but my injuries wouldn’t let me.’’
The Marlins signed Furcal this offseason after he missed all of last year after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last March.
Furcal missed the end of the 2012 season with an elbow strain and after months of rehab, it was determined he needed the ligament-replacement surgery after he started spring training with the Cardinals.
This spring, Furcal pulled his left hamstring and went on the disabled list. During a rehab assignment with Jacksonville in May, Furcal injured his groin to keep him on the DL longer than expected.
Furcal has spent the past few months in the minors, playing for Miami’s Single A team in Jupiter as well as its Double A team in Jacksonville.
“I think I played in the minors more than I ever did in my career,’’ Furcal joked before the game.
Miami manager Mike Redmond said Furcal will be a boost to the top of the Marlins lineup and his veteran presence should help 25-year-old shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria. Furcal, the 2000 Rookie of the Year with Atlanta, has played in 1,605 major-league games over the course of 13 seasons (Braves, Dodgers and Cardinals) and has a career batting average of .281 with an on-base percentage of .346.
“We’re excited,’’ Redmond said. “We envisioned him here on Opening Day, and it didn’t happen. Raffy got banged up a few different times. But I know the guys are excited to have him back at the top of the order. ... Hopefully he’ll be a nice spark plug for us.’’
Said Furcal: “The way this team is playing, I think I can help.’’• Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia planned to be at Friday’s game and is expected to begin playing again for Jupiter on Monday. Saltalamacchia sustained a concussion on May 31 in a game against visiting Atlanta and was cleared to begin baseball activities on Tuesday.
Redmond said there is no timetable for a return to the Marlins.• Veteran reliever Kevin Gregg, signed earlier this month, continues to increase his workload at Triple A New Orleans with Redmond saying he was expected to pitch Friday night as well as Saturday.
COMING UP• Saturday : Marlins LHP Randy Wolf (1-2, 4.15 ERA) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates RHP Charlie Morton (3-7, 3.14), 4:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
• Sunday : Marlins RHP Henderson Alvarez (3-3, 2.56) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates TBA, 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.