In the midst of a crazy Wild Card chase, the ailing Pittsburgh Pirates, losers of their last four coming into Tuesday night, would more than welcome a return from their promising 23-year-old outfielder Starling Marte.
Marte made his first rehab assignment as a designated hitter with the State College Spikes (34-41) against the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (33-42) at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park Tuesday night.
Marte was off to a strong start for the Pirates before landing on the disabled list on Aug. 19 with a strained right oblique. In 23 games, Marte batted .254 with four home runs and 10 RBI.
Marte did not have the same fortunes on Tuesday as he did in his major league debut, when he hit a home run in his first at-bat. Rather, he struggled leading off, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts as the Spikes defeated the Scrappers, 5-4, in 11 innings.
Marte led off the game reaching base on an error that ate up third baseman Jorge Martinez on a playable ball, one of three errors on the night. It was the only time of the night where Marte reached base.
In his four at-bats combined, Marte saw only 14 pitches, making contact to only three of them, two in play. But it was just Marte getting at-bats for the first time since August 1 that was the most important thing, Spikes manager Dave Turgeon said.
“Is [his oblique] 100 percent? Probably not. But is it close? Yeah,” Turgeon said. “Now it’s just a matter of him getting his timing back.”
Marte’s night ended early in the eleventh inning when he was pinched hit for by infielder Samuel Gonzalez, who hit a walk-off single to win the game. Turgeon reassured that was a decision from the higher-ups. However, he also indicated Marte experienced some tightness on his last at-bat, but it should not cause any alarm.
“I think what happens when you go through rehab with a pull or a tear, you go through a thing where it heals up and you got that new adhesions that maybe a little tight,” Turgeon said. “So he goes through the process of pre-gaming of warming it up, stretching it out, going through the whole process, and keeping it loose [throughout the game].”
Marte was not available for comment after the game.
While Marte’s stay in State College will end Tuesday night, his presence left on the team will not be forgotten among the players.
It was seen in the eyes of Tyler Glasnow how “awesome” it was to meet and talk to a big leaguer, whom Glasnow described as extremely open and personable to the team. Turgeon reiterated the importance of Marte’s presence, even if it was just for one game.
“Some of these guys never laid eyes on a big leaguer, up close and personal, talk to one, kind of break down those barriers a little bit,” Turgeon said. “[They can] watch a guy prepare for the game and say, ‘maybe I can do this.’ ”
Marte will leave State College on Wednesday to continue his rehab assignment with the Pirates triple-A affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians.
NOTES: First baseman and Penn State graduate Jordan Steranka has finally signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The signing was delayed while Steranka recovered from mononucleosis.