It’s only been less than two weeks in the big leagues for Starling Marte, but we’ve already seen flashes of exciting plays from the 23-year-old that makes you see his special potential.
He showed off his power in his very first pitch in his very first at-bat launching a home run in his 2-for-4 debut. We’ve seen him show off his cannon arm by nailing a runner trying to stretch a single into a double. And we’ve seen his speed on the bases, legging out extra-base hits and swiping a bag.
Marte entered game action hitting for a .244/.271/.422 line over 11 games. But on Tuesday against Arizona in Pittsburgh, which Marte said was a dream to play in because of his role model Roberto Clemente, Marte showed off his threat at the top of the order with his speed and power.
The outfielder led off the first inning with a single into center field. Marte showed off his wheels after Travis Snider hit a base knock into right field, allowing the outfielder to aggressively advance from first to third on the play. Marte scored the first run for the Pirates after Andrew McCutchen drove him in with a sac fly.
After Marte struck out, then drew a walk, the rookie came through big in the seventh inning. Marte took a 3-2 fastball and crushed it to center field into the shrubs for a leadoff solo home run. It marked his third already this season over 48 at-bats. The blast also tied the game up at 3.
Although it’s still a short time frame, Marte continues to flash the potential of a star in the making that ranked him as the club’s No. 1 position player prospect in their system.
“So far, so good,” Manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’re just going to let him play. He’s also getting to see some things that he hasn’t seen before. He’s a young man with a very big skill set that just needs to play. He comes as advertised.”
“He squared that ball up. Hit it to dead center 434 [feet]. That gets your attention. Going first to third on a pretty good right-fielder with a strong throwing arm. His throw last night. He just needs to play because there are some other things at this level that are going to continue to challenge him as well.”
Correia Adjusting to New Role; Set to Make Spot Start on Wednesday
When the club decided to move Kevin Correia into the bullpen, the right-hander made it known that he was disappointed with the news. Correia requested a trade, saying that he wanted to start, but the club kept him to pitch in long relief and make some occasional spot starts. On Wednesday at PNC Park, Correia will make his first since moving to the bullpen.
“I think I’ve pretty much made it clear that’s what I like doing,” Correia said. “Any chance I get to do it, I love it. I’ve been kind of trying to make the adjustment in to more of getting a routine down and to be able to come in as a relief pitcher in the past couple weeks. It’s always fun for me to go out there and start again.”
Correia said he hasn’t been working on anything in particular since his last start and the time off in the ‘pen, just trying to stay as sharp as possible without pitching a lot of innings. He’s made one relief appearance while the club was in Houston. Correia allowed four runs on five hits over two frames. That was his last outing, which came on July 29.
“I don’t feel like I needed the rest,” Correia said on whether the time down could help him during the long season. “I wasn’t tired at all. I don’t feel like rest is going to help anything. I look forward to get back out there because it’s been a while.”
The right-hander said he’s not looking at the opportunity tomorrow as an audition back into the rotation. He’s aware of his role as of now with the five healthy starters in place.
“I’m not thinking I need to go out there and pitch well,” Correia said. “I was winning games before that. It’s not a situation. We added to our team. I’m not going out there trying to win a spot back, I’m just going out there to give these guys an extra day and hopefully give these guys an extra day.”
Not since when Correia was with the San Francisco Giants, spanning from 2003-08, has he been called upon to spot start. Correia said it will take some time getting used to the new role, but is looking forward to the opportunity to start.
“Years ago, I used to do it all the time,” Correia said. “I’ve been in the rotation for the most part the past few years. It’s just an adjustment. It’s something I’ve done before, it’s just been a little while so it might take a little while to get the routine down.”
Cruz Feels Rust, but is Healthy After First Rehab Start
Juan Cruz made his first rehab start on Monday with Double-A Altoona, but struggled. After whiffing his first batter, Cruz went on to allow four straight singles and two runs to score before getting pulled after just 0.1 inning.
“They matter a little bit,” Cruz said of the results. “I haven’t thrown in a while. I feel good. My arm feels good and everything.”
The right-hander was slated to throw a frame, but was able to get his pitch count to a good place with 25 on the night. Cruz’s velocity was 91-94.
“Basically we wanted Juan to get out and pound the fastball,” Hurdle said. “And repeat his delivery and arm slot, and that’s what he did.”
“I feel good, but I didn’t do good,” Cruz said. “I feel great. I think I’m going to have a couple more days off, then I’m going to go back on Thursday. After that, I don’t know.”
Cruz worked out and ran today. Hurdle said they will determine how he feels before he and pitching coach Ray Searage decide what his next step will be.
Bullpen Explodes for Seven Runs
The Pirates bullpen has been impressive so far this season. But two strong arms towards the back end of the bullpen, Jason Grilli and Jared Hughes, struggled on Tuesday night after the Pirates battled back for the third time to finally take the 4-3 lead.
The ‘pen entered game action with just a combined 2.79 ERA — second best in the Majors. And even despite the seven earned runs over one-plus inning, they still rank among the best.
“It’s just a night that you don’t want to have as a reliever,” Grilli said. “It doesn’t feel good. It left a bad taste in my mouth. Tomorrow is a new day, and that’s the life of a reliever. I haven’t done that, that much this year. There’s still a lot of ballgames left. I’ve just got to forget about it, try to wash it away.”
Grilli dished up three straight hits, the first going for extra bases, before Chris Johnson deposited a three-run homer into the seats to tack on four earned off the right-hander. The outing snapped Grilli’s 5.1 scoreless inning streak. In the ninth, Hughes gave up three of his own after issuing a walk, double then a three-run long ball to give the D-Backs a six run lead.
The Pirates snapped their impressive record of 53-0 when leading after seven innings on Tuesday’s loss.
“I don’t think one game is going to change how we go about our business,” Grilli said. “This is a marathon. This is a long season. I think we have a pretty good track record to not blow this up, set a bar for [the media] to write, like, ‘Oh my god. What happened to us tonight?’ There are games like this. It’s not just us, it’s throughout the league. It’s baseball. It’s not always how you depict it and script it. You’ve got to just go out there and battle.”
“I don’t want to worry about it,” Hurdle said of the bullpen struggle. “We’ll make some evaluations of what we saw, what we see on tape and we’ll move on…You never like it to happen.”