Starling Marte told the Dominican League site yesterday that he missed two games early this week due to minor back discomfort, contrary to what we heard from some sources covering the team. There was speculation by some that he was taking off as a precaution due to a back injury, but the official word was that he was just resting. Marte said that he decided to take off until the minor discomfort was totally gone. He missed two games and had another day off due to the scheduled off day on Tuesday. Marte returned with two hits on Wednesday, then went 1-for-4 on Thursday.
Marte did not start on Friday, though he was on the daily roster submitted to the league. With his team down 4-2 in the ninth, Marte never left the bench. He also didn’t come in when left fielder Jose Constanza had to leave after legging out a double in the first inning.
In Puerto Rico, there were Pirates players who were actually in action on Friday night. Benji Gonzalez had a tough day, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and a walk. He also made his third error of the playoffs. Gonzalez hit .317 in the regular season with no errors. In the playoffs, he is hitting .143 in the first six games.
Eliecer Navarro pitched in relief after making all three of his appearances in the starting role. Navarro was asked to face one hitter in the bottom of the ninth with his team up 3-2 and he retired the batter on a fly out to left field.
Play Ball In Panama
Winter ball in Panama just started this week, which may seem odd compared to all the other leagues that have already wrapped up their seasons. In Panama, they play an 18 game schedule between four teams, with each team playing each other six times. The teams with the top two records, then play for the title.
The league has a possible sleeper prospect from the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, Ulises Montilla. He was ranked 45th overall in our 2014 Prospect Guide. Montilla hit .290 in the GCL this year, posting an .802 OPS. In 2011 in the Venezuelan Summer League, he batted .364, the second highest average in the league. The following season, he batted .320 in the Dominican Summer League. Montilla opened his Winter season with a bang, going 2-for-3 with a double, homer and four RBIs. He was the second baseman, playing his primary position from 2013. Montilla has also played third base and all three outfield spots.
Other Pirates players in the league include Dario Agrazal Jr., who hasn’t pitched yet. He played in the league last year before he made his pro debut in the DSL. Agrazal went 6-0, 2.40 in 60 innings(12 starts and one relief outing) during his pro debut in 2013.
Edgardo Munoz has gone 1-for-8 with a walk so far. He missed all but four games this past year in the DSL, his third season in the Pirates organization.
One other name in the league from the recent past that Pirates fans might remember is Jorge Bishop. He had a strong debut in 2009 in Venezuela, then came to the GCL and looked decent as a 19-year-old in the league. He even played four games for Bradenton as a fill-in. After that, things went downhill quickly. He then had two bad years and never made it past State College. Bishop was released by the Pirates in 2012. In game one in Panama, he was the double play partner of Ulises Montilla.+ posts
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.