Neal Huntington Discusses Starling Marte’s Return

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.

  • Marte has rocks in his head.

  • With as early in the offseason as Kang was arrested they should have been putting a plan in action then as for Marte I said it earlier and I do mean it
    PED players in any sport need dumped its a privilege to play the game even at league minimum they will set themselves up for life with the doors it opens.
    As the last 3 nights has shown this team needs the help on offense and defense so you know Clint will put him in yank Frazier out of lineup with Osuano sitting on the bench with him.
    The is the current managements albatross if Marte tanks because he can’t juice any more with his contract and you still have no regular for third with manager
    Unwilling to play the youngsters over the aging veterans

    • Bill Harvey
      July 2, 2017 7:31 pm

      Careful with the plan to replace Kang talk, I was lambasted for offering the opinion that he had very likely played his last game in America. I was called stupid and having idiotic notions. So, just saying, tread carefully.

    • “With as early in the offseason as Kang was arrested they should have been putting a plan in action”

      Disagree. With everything known at the time, until he was denied the visa, the team had every expectation he’d be able to get a visa and play this season.

      Hindsight is always 20/20

      • I’m sure the Pirates have enough resources to have an inkling of how it would affect his visa status. If they don’t, that’s pathetic, this is a billion dollar enterprise.

  • Juice Boy can’t wait!!! Fire Hurdle

  • Unfortunately, after the pathetic excuse of a series against one of the worst teams in baseball this season, it doesn’t matter who plays when or where they’re positioned.

    I honestly have no problem with NH right now – yes, all teams go through injuries, but to lose 2 of your top 3 hitters to things that are 100% preventable is not on the GM whatsoever unless you want to start analyzing his ability to judge character and dependability.

    As for the bullpen, while everybody saw Watson declining, almost nobody thought he’d decline this much, this quickly, and a vast majority of people loved the Hudson signing. Couple that with Nicasio and Rivero (which people fail to give NH proper credit for in comparison), and he once again deserves a pass (keeping Bastardo aside, which I assume Hurdle had a MAJOR role in).

    Which brings us to the real problem on this team – the manager, and, more specifically, accountability. Yes, I realize this is professional baseball and switching positions can be difficult, but guess what? We all are asked to do different things we’re not always accustomed to doing at our jobs, and if we screw up, we get in trouble or are fired? And we get paid pennies compared to the guys who even get paid league minimum.

    They’ve been playing baseball their entire lives for the most part, and for the money they make, a little effort and concentration to make routine plays is not asking for much. This is on the manager holding players accountable in the field or in the batter’s box. You don’t have to be their friend, you don’t have to hold their hand or worry about embarrassing them – they are grown adults getting paid handsomely to do their JOB!

    Hurdle (and the other coaches) needs to shape this team up asap or the Pirates need to move in another direction immediately.

    • NH is far more culpable than clint. Managers are basically a dime a dozen. But if this team wants to take the next step it probably means replacing the gm. Clint, you can take him or leave him but it won’t move the needle.

      And I will add, many people questioned the composition of this bullpen going into the season.

    • Bill Harvey
      July 2, 2017 6:52 pm

      I keep hearing about how bad of a job Hurdle is doing, but the bullpen in one way, shape or form, has cost this team more than 15 wins. I am not sure how Hurdle can fix that. He has to have someone pitch innings, Nicasio and Rivero can’t throw every inning for the bullpen. The rest of the bullpen has showed that they are not good in any inning or any situation. I am not a fan of Hurdle, but there is literally no good way to use the players he has in the bullpen.

      How about this, if we are going to blame Hurdle, let’s also blame the coaches that have seen a decline in the areas they coach. The Pirates have been bad at pitching, hitting, and base running. The bullpen, outside of Rivero, Nicasio, and to a lesser extent, Marinez, has been horrible, that’s a lot of coaches deserving of a lot of blame.

      • True, but did you notice that 1-6 of the Giants lineup played all 3 games while Hurdle continues his infernal “these boys look tired” lineup juggling? That was a horrid lineup that he put out there.

        • That’s what I forgot to mention – the fact that our regulars are more tired throughout the season than every other team combined it seems

          • Bill Harvey
            July 2, 2017 7:33 pm

            That is the GM’s infatuation with HR analysis, not necessarily the opinion of Hurdle. He is just taking input from data analysis and possibly the players.

        • Bill Harvey
          July 2, 2017 7:27 pm

          That is the lineup you get when 2 of you best 3 hitters are MIA. If Kang and Marte were there, Moroff and Osuna are still in Indy, and Freeze and Frazier are resting guys. Again, I am not a Hurdle fan, and the lineup tinkering is almost as bad as listening to him talk, but guys need rest, and this is what he has to work with.

      • I did make mention of the other coaches at the end

    • I was in the “unvast” category of those who did NOT like the Hudson signing. 🙂

    • Believe me when I tell you Hurdle DOES NOT WANT BASTINKO on his roster. Your hatred towards the manager for actually playing the hand he has been dealt is laughable. Watson was the closer to build up trade value (that obviously did not work). Bastinko would have been released by any other team but not us because they are still holding out hope that we will find a sucker to take him. My fear is we trade another top ten prospect to get rid of him and or Watson and that doesn’t fall on the manager. marte certainly would have helped this team but the force feeding of players not worthy of a roster spot doesn’t fall on Hurdle. Not having a competent back up outfielders on the roster doesn’t fall on Hurdle.

      • Because Hurdle doesn’t love him some veterans. He had no problem running Bastardo out there in April, he had his infatuation with Gosselin, and he chose to keep Watson in that role. A player will have value when put in the best role for the team, and when the manager picks his spots correctly, which Hurdle has failed to do time and time again beyond just the last two years.

        And again, my main point with Hurdle is not holding players accountable (or at least not until it’s too late).

  • In all sincerity it looks as if the probability of the pirates moving on from NH between slim and none. Would love to think coonely is working overtime doing his due diligence on young, talented assistant gms but we know that’s not the case.

  • Tim writes the “loss of Huntington has hurt the pirates”. Lmao could not agree more.

  • Michael Sankovich
    July 2, 2017 5:28 pm

    Excuses; few teams go through a season without valuable players missing playing time. Objective PIrate fans who have watched all the Pirate games this year realize that even if Marte & Kang had been here all season, this would have been at best a .500 club. Just too many deficiencies in other areas.

    • Right- because marte and kang happened to be major unforeseeable problems does not mean NH hasn’t sucked at other very important parts of his job

      See bullpen, roster construction etc

    • yup

    • A .500 club is still eight games better than they are right now.

    • Exactly. They aren’t a very talented team at all and nothing was done in the offseason to improve the team.

      • compared to the Cardinals? The Reds? The Giants? I mean……….very talented compared to what baseline here?

    • not true at all. Putting the players back into the roles they are meant to play, not only adds back the value you are missing, but also allows those role players to be succesful which adds additional value that is hard to compute. See Jaso, for example, limit his playing time and boom…..good hitter. Do you really think Bell wouldn’t be a better hitter with Marte and Kang in the lineup…..? How about Cutch? Cervelli? It all rolls down hill and extends to pitching as well to some small degree. My point is maybe we’d be a .500 team, or maybe we’d be 4 games above .500 either way, that’d put us in 2nd place and in a position to add players in the second half to WIN a division. Instead………we have no chance, and won’t have any chance this year.

  • Lol the pathetic thing is even with the loss of marte/kang this team could be very close to first place If NH doesn’t build dumpster fire of bullpen

    • Please DFA watson

      • They’ll trade tony for a lottery ticket. The time to “DFA” Neal is drawing near though

        • I’m waiting for him to come to my house to cut grass!!!!

          • Your lawn will look like shit this summer but will be best looking lawn in neighborhood in 2020!

    • Curious as to what other teams have done recently to improve their bullpens? Please compare NH to other GMs. I am very interested in the specific trades that have happened to obtain relief pitchers.

  • NH…sure, the loss of Marte and Kang hurt our offense, but your poor decisions in the bullpen is killing us more, imo.

    • This bullpen Just one tweak away from dominating foo.

    • No one can blame the GM. He’s been extremely busy tending to his damaged thumbs. Alternating between sitting on them and twittiling them will cause that.