PITTSBURGH – The big topic today has been Starling Marte returning to start his rehab in Bradenton. Earlier today, Clint Hurdle said that Marte would play in left field when he returned to the Pirates. I sat down with Marte this morning before his rehab to discuss the PED suspension.
Neal Huntington also discussed Marte during his weekly meeting with the Pittsburgh media, including our Alan Saunders.
Huntington noted that Marte has been working down in Bradenton since a week after he was suspended. He played a lot of Extended Spring Training games, which I can confirm, and has been working out in the last week with the GCL team, which I can also confirm.
“Once Gulf Coast League got within range of starting, obviously no more extended spring training games, so now we’ve got to get him back against competition,” Huntington said. “He’s had more than a couple two-a-day workouts this last week or so. Condition-wise, he should be in a good spot. Baseball movement, baseball activity-wise, he should be in a good spot. It’s just now about speed of game.”
Huntington said that Marte will get some time in Bradenton, and then they will see how he responds. The goal is to get him as many games in Indianapolis as possible, but Huntington said they “need to do it at the right pace.” Bradenton only has one more home game before hitting the road, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Marte’s stay here is short.
The loss of Marte has hurt the Pirates, especially when combined with the loss of Jung Ho Kang. The Pirates planned their offseason expecting Marte and Kang to be two of their top producers, after those two were the top hitters on the team last year. They also planned to have David Freese and Adam Frazier making up a strong bench, but that changed when Marte was suspended.
“We built this club to have Kang at third base and Marte in centerfield to start the season and Frazier and Freese were going to be valuable role players for us and instead we’ve had to force Moroff and Osuna and some other guys into those roles,” Huntington said. “Osuna’s done well and some of those other guys have been challenged.”
The biggest impact of losing Marte, paired with injuries to Gregory Polanco, has been the lack of depth in the outfield in terms of having a true outfielder who is used to playing the position.
“We felt good about having Adam Frazier and John Jaso on this club,” Huntington said. “We had some challenges early with them relatively inexperienced in the outfield. Our depth got exposed.”
Marte will return playing left field, after most of the talk during the offseason was focused around him moving to center and Andrew McCutchen moving to right.
“We spent a lot of time on it in the offseason, but as we reviewed everything and where we are right now and the circumstances that we’re working through and have before us, we felt that was the best alignment for this club for this scenario for this situation,” Huntington said.
Marte talked this morning about how his teammates reacted, and how there’s always the thought that someone could be upset about what happened. Huntington mentioned that Marte will now just try to work his way back, and try to earn the trust and respect of the team again.
“We’ve got a young man that recognizes that he’s got work to do,” Huntington said. “He’s put himself in a situation that he needs to earn people’s trust and respect back but I also think we’re getting a young man that’s driven to come back into this club, fold himself back in, earn his way back in and help this club win games.”
Alan Saunders contributed to this report.