After serving an 80-game suspension, Starling Marte is set to return to the Pittsburgh Pirates outfield Tuesday night.
Back in mid-April, Pittsburgh Pirates’ outfielder Starling Marte was hit with an 80-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. He has been on a minor league rehab assignment this month, in order to ramp up for his return. Tuesday night is that night, and Marte will be activated and presumably back in Clint Hurdle’s lineup against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Marte had a .241/.288/.370 slash-line, two home runs, seven RBI and two stolen bases in 13 games prior to his suspension. Pittsburgh was below .500 (39-41) during his absence, even with eight wins in their last 10 games.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are trending back toward playoff contention, but they’re still six games out in the NL Central and even further back of the second Wild Card spot (eight games back). So being a trade deadline seller is probably still on the radar, unless their recent run continues and they gain some more ground in the playoff race.
Andrew McCutchen moved back to center field in Marte’s absence, and he’ll apparently stay there with Marte taking over in left field. McCutchen has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball since June 1, with a .394/.488/.679 slash-line, nine home runs and 27 RBI over 164 plate appearances entering Tuesday. So he’s found a good rhythm at the plate, after a bad 2016 that brought talk of being past his prime, and upsetting that with a position switch he was not happy with originally probably isn’t ideal.
It’s now official, Marte is starting in left field and hitting leadoff against Brewers starter Junior Guerra on Tuesday night.
Performance-enhancing drug aided or not, Marte showed his full potential in 2015 (.287, 19 home runs, 81 RBI and 30 stolen bases) and 2016 (.311 with 47 stolen bases). Having him back after such a long absence is practically like a trade acquisition, and with Gregory Polanco hitting .447 so far in July the Pirates suddenly have a loaded outfield.