Marte continues stellar spring
Starling Marte
Starling Marte

Posted Mar 17, 2012


It's something of a contradiction that the Pirates' best -- and maybe most talented -- performer in spring training has no chance of making the team, but that's how it is with Starling Marte.

The 23-year-old elite outfield prospect was batting .500 -- 11 for 22 -- with three home runs, four RBI and two steals through March 16. That included a potent shot off Philadelphia All-Star Cliff Lee, beyond left field despite the wind blowing in.

But management has committed to getting Marte more development and is standing by it.

"We're not going to change our minds," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We want the total package when he arrives."

The plan is to have Marte open the season in Class AAA -- his first time above the Class AA level - mostly to improve on his selectivity at the plate. He led the Eastern League with a .332 average last season, with an on-base percentage of .370. The Pirates want to see more power - he had 12 home runs and 50 RBIs in 536 at-bats - and believe it's very much there. But if he gets to the majors and goes into a survival mode, he might start just making routine contact and lose that aggressiveness.

Marte had no complaint with heading to Class AAA Indianapolis.

"Everything is good," he said. "I'm feeling good about how I'm playing here, but the communication has been good. I know I can learn."

With Andrew McCutchen cemented in center, expect Marte to eventually become the Pirates' right fielder because of his powerful arm.

Notes, Quotes

2B Neil Walker, who had 12 home runs each of the past two seasons, is lining up to be the Pirates' cleanup hitter. They don't have a true home run threat, so management is going with his 149 RBIs in 246 games. "It's not a place where I've hit very much, to be honest, but I've always been comfortable with men on base," Walker said. "It's something I've always enjoyed."

1B Garrett Jones, expected to platoon at the position with Casey McGehee, has made the strongest showing of any veteran in camp with a .400 average, two home runs, two doubles and eight RBI. "I feel like my swing is just getting locked in," he said. "I'm standing tall, waiting back on the pitch."

OF Jose Tabata will remain in right field, where he started 13 games late last season after Alex Presley effectively took over left. "Jose will do very well there," outfield instructor Luis Silverio said. "We'll have to work with him on the wall at PNC Park, but he has a good, accurate arm, and we're going to have a lot of speed out there."

RHP Kevin Correia, trying to reclaim his All-Star form of early 2011, had an unblemished ERA through three spring starts. His location has been outstanding. "I'm feeling good out there, strong, putting the ball where I want for the most part," Correia said. "Feels a little better every time out."

RHP Evan Meek has been one of the more prominent question marks of the spring, coming off shoulder trouble last year and still building up velocity. But management sounds—for now—as if he'll make the team. "I'd say it's progress, a little more each time out," Hurdle said.

INF Josh Harrison and INF Yamaico Navarro look like the best bets to fill out the Pirates' bench and, thus, their list of position players. The bullpen is in much more of a state of flux and, given management's wish to have two left-handers, outside help is being sought.

By The Numbers: 10—Runs scored by the Pirates in the top of the first inning in a 17-6 rout of the Minnesota Twins on March 15. Fifteen men came to the plate, and 10 had hits.

Quote To Note: "I love that. It shows me they care. And everyone's a better manager than me, so how can I not learn from them and improve?" —Manager Clint Hurdle, on engaging Pirates fans in baseball talk


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