Back spasms short-circuited an electric season by Starling Marte, denying the 28-year-old of finishing off one of his most productive campaigns. The outfielder offset career lows in games played (129) and home runs (9) with a career-high .311 batting average and 47 stolen bases in 2016. He started just one game after Sept. 5 due to the back injury, but when he was healthy, he registered a .380 BABIP (second highest in the majors behind DJ LeMahieu's .388). While that number is likely to regress in 2017, he features a career .359 BABIP. Marte's aggressive style lends itself to injuries -- he dealt with a host of ailments in 2016 before the back issue -- and he's been hit by 79 pitches in five seasons. The two-time Gold Glove winner should be healthy for spring training, but it might be wise to keep a close eye on his Grapefruit League progress.
Marte was suspended 80 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, Jared Diamond the Wall Street Journal reports. Marte's suspension is effective immediately and will have him out for the next 80 games. With Marte out for an extended period of time, the Pirates may move Andrew McCutchen over to his old spot in center field while adding Adam Frazier or Josh Bell to their outfield. However, the possibility exists that Marte's suspension could accelerate Austin Meadows' arrival to the big leagues.
Marte finished 4-for-5 with a home run, two RBI and two runs scored in Sunday's 6-5 win over the Braves. Marte put on an excellent performance, aside from a couple of baserunning gaffs, and earned his team a win with a walkoff two-run home run to center in the bottom of the 10th inning. After hitting .111 through nine at-bats to start the season, Marte feasted over the weekend against Atlanta, going 7-for-14 with a home run, four RBI and four runs scored.
Marte may need an occasional day off early in 2017 as part of his continued recovery from an ankle sprain, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. "We're still assessing that," head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk said. He initially injured his ankle March 8 while sliding into second base. "I don't think it's going to be an issue," Marte said. "Yeah, it is a little bit sore here and there. I do believe that I'm going to be able to play throughout the season, especially with the therapy I'm going through." Marte returned from the World Baseball Classic and promptly hit an opposite-field grand slam Thursday, and it seems safe to assume the Pirates wouldn't be playing him in meaningless exhibition games if the injury was severe.
Marte said his ankle injury is better and he "could play nine innings now" if needed, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. The Pirates will continue to be careful with him for the remainder of spring, but this is encouraging news, as it doesn't appear the ankle injury will affect Marte's readiness to begin the season. The 28-year-old stole a career-high 47 bases in 2016 and is set to take over center field for the first time this season.
The Pirates will be careful with Marte (ankle) after the center fielder injured himself during the World Baseball Classic, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. "It's going to be something that takes time," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We've been in contact with the medical staff out there about his ankle. They've done a great job of giving him rest when he needs rest. We've appreciated how Tony (Pena, Dominican Republic manager) and their medical staff handled it." Marte stole a career-high 47 bases in 2016, and his game is all about speed. The timing of his injury is also unfortunate because the team has reshuffled its entire starting outfield, and the trio hasn't worked much as a unit because of WBC participation. At least Marte hasn't missed any spring action due to the back injury that forced him to sit out almost all of last September.