Pirates Notebook: Starling Marte Will Play Left Field When He Returns to Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH — When Pirates outfielder Starling Marte returns to the starting lineup, he’ll do so as a left fielder.

Marte will begin his 15-day rehab assignment in Bradenton Sunday as he works to return from an 80-game suspension for performance enhancing drug use.

For most of his Major League career, Marte has played left field. The Pirates moved him to center field, Andrew McCutchen to right and Gregory Polanco to left this off-season in part to maximize the defensive abilities of Marte, who finished second in the National League in outfield assists in 2016.

But that experiment failed on several levels. First, Marte’s suspension created a hole in the middle of the outfield that prompted McCutchen’s return to that spot. Then, Polanco’s continued struggles in adjusting to left field and at the plate, led manager Clint Hurdle to move him back to right field to simplify things.

“We tried one thing and one didn’t work,” McCutchen said. “With everything that went on, it made it a little tougher to be able to do that. So we just had to go back to the drawing board and now we’re back to where we were in the past.”

GETTING READY

Marte will have 15 days to work his way back into game shape, but it’s hardly going to be a typical rehab assignment. He’s already been working out and playing games in Pirate City for quite some time, with those games coming early during his suspension.

“This has been a whole different testing ground for us because he’s already played a bunch of games already,” Hurdle said. “But it’s the degree of the game and the level of competition. To think he’s ready for nine innings in his first game? I don’t think that’s fair. You’ve got 15 days in which to work with. We’ll build up just a little bit and get him to Indy later in the week. I anticipate him playing nine innings by the back half of next week.”

Bradenton plays at home Monday and then will go on the road for the rest of the week.

MAKING THE MOST OF IT

In Marte’s absence, Adam Frazier has gotten the majority of the extra reps in the outfield and he’s done well there. With Marte’s return, Frazier expects to transition back into the utility role that earned him a Major League spot as a rookie in 2016. But he’s thankful for the chance he got to prove he can be an every day player.

“It was a good opportunity for me,” Frazier said. “Happy to get Marte. He’s one of the best players in the league. It’s a big boost for our lineup. But it gave me an opportunity to prove that I can do that and that I’m ready for that. I did a pretty good job, I feel like and honestly, I could have done even better. It’s good to have success. I’m just going to try to build on it and keep pushing.”

STARTING LINEUP

With Saturday’s 4 p.m. game going late into extra innings, the Pirates are resting David Freese, Josh Harrison and McCutchen Sunday afternoon.

‘In a perfect world, you’d like to space everything out,” Hurdle said. “Guys are tired when guys are tired.”

CERVELLI’S FUTURE

Catcher Francisco Cervelli worked out on the field and in the batting cage under the watchful eye of team trainer Todd Tomczyk for the third straight day as he returns from post-concussion symptoms.

Cervelli seems to be nearing a return, but his long-term future as a catcher remains a concern. Cervelli has already had a handful of concussions in his Major League career. John Jaso was forced to make a move out from behind the plate before he got to Pittsburgh because of repeated concussion, and the Pirates are mindful of that going forward with Cervelli.

“I think what we’ll want to do is get him going,” Hurdle said. “I know he wants to ignite behind the plate. Then the next conversation can be how can we maybe look at some other options. But that’s a conversation I have not had with him.”

  • Playing tired? I’m sorry. We have all gone to work “tired.” Sunday’s line-up was pathetic.

    • I certainly went to work tired many times, but, mercifully, I wasn’t asked to hit major league pitching. CH isn’t trying to be sympathetic, but to do what (little) he can to optimize on-field performance.

  • Cervelli seems to be showing the symptoms of too many concussions. He may be approaching the Jaso category of his career. Has he played any positions other than catcher?

    • Alan Saunders
      July 2, 2017 3:28 pm

      He was working at shortstop the other day just to get some extra work in. I don’t believe he has regularly.

      • Bill Harvey
        July 2, 2017 6:31 pm

        I was thinking 3B, but I guess his bat does play a little better at SS. It is going to be tough for him if he has to move from catcher because he doesn’t have enough bat to play a premium offensive position, but isn’t athletic enough to play a position where his bat could play.

  • Can Frazier be an every day right fielder?

    • A good idea, but I think I would rather have Osuna platooning
      with Polonco and Bell, but we have to find ways to keep
      Frazier in the lineup fairly regularly. The Frazier, Harrison
      at the top of the line up has worked pretty well. Will
      it become Harrison then Marte?

      • Michael Sankovich
        July 2, 2017 5:17 pm

        actually, since that Atlanta series where he hit a couple of homers, Frazier has been at best mediocre. And he remains an average at best 2nd baseman. A SRod type utility role appears to be his best usage.

        • Any idea the reason for Frazier’s bit of a slump?
          Long season? He somewhat “saved” us for
          4-6 weeks after the Marte suspension.

    • Bill Harvey
      July 2, 2017 6:32 pm

      Not one on a good team.

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