The Pittsburgh Pirates have struggled with consistency coming from their corner outfield positions and the leadoff spot in the lineup so far in 2012. The production they’ve had in left has combined for just a .195/.242/.317 line. Their leadoff spot in has hit just .217 on the year. Both numbers are well belong league average and need to improve drastically for the Pirates to remain in the playoff race.
“You like consistency in all areas,” Manager Clint Hurdle said. “When you don’t have them, you find another way to get it done. The challenges that the game presents, with your organizational depth can either help you, or performance levels as they spark or falter, you’ve got to adjust accordingly. You always like more consistency everywhere around. We knew there might be some challenges with the personnel. I think overall we’ve done the best we can with what we have, with where we are.”
The Pirates are hoping that prospect Starling Marte can fill that void.
Marte, 23, joined the team in Houston and was activated prior to the game tonight against the Astros. The outfielder will make his Major League debut for the Pirates after posting a .286/.347/.500 line with Triple-A Indianapolis. Marte hit a career-high 12 home runs (tying his total with Double-A Altoona in 2011) while hitting 21 doubles, 13 triples and stealing 21 bases in 33 attempts.
Marte, who has played primarily center field in his professional career, was recently moved to the corner outfield positions to get reps. Due to his speed, his fits well in the Pirates spacious left field at PNC Park, but his strong arm could also give him ample time in right.
One of the reasons for the inconsistency in the corner outfield position has come from Jose Tabata, who was demoted to Triple-A to regain his focus and get back on track. Alex Presley also struggled in 2012, and was sent to Indianapolis to get back on track.
“That’s been a work in progress,” Hurdle said. “We’re trying to help him find that confidence level and that productivity that he experienced last year when he came up. One area of commitment that he’s working on is just covering that ball away much better. I think recently he has showed some patience.”
Presley has hit for a .231/.269/.364 line, and hitting for just a .179 clip over his last 10 games. The outfielder broke camp with the club this season for the first time in his big league career, expecting to be their everyday left fielder, but hasn’t been able to repeat his numbers from last year. In 52 games in 2011, Presley was solid at the top of the lineup finishing with a .298 average, but has struggled at the plate with consistency this season.
“He got on base, led off innings and scored some runs, which is always good to see from the guy at the top of your order,” Hurdle said. “As Alex will tell you, the league punches back. Once you find success, they find ways to counteract that success. He’s been challenged with trying to find his way back.”
“He’s always shown the ability to handle the ball in the middle of the plate. They’re spending a little more time on the outer third and we got to get him to a better place when he strikes that ball, when he swings at it. The soft and the spin, continue to find ways to barrel that up as well. It’s been a challenge for him. It’s one that he’s beating everyday and trying to go out there and improve upon. That’s part of a young player coming up especially with all the other things going on. You’ve got a competitive team winning games. No one out there wants to be the weakest thing at any particular point in time.”