After many weeks of playing without Starling Marte, the Pittsburgh Pirates are finally get their leadoff hitter back in the lineup. Marte has been out since early August with a bruised right hand.
He has been able to play defense and pinch-run for about a week, but Tuesday night will be his first start since coming off the disabled list. If his hand is still bothering him, it will be easy to tell after his first couple swings tonight. Marte faced live pitching this past Saturday, hitting against left-handed pitcher Kris Johnson before the Pirates’ game against the Chicago Cubs. Apparently it went well if he is already in the lineup just a few days following the workout.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle predicted that Marte would return for the San Diego Padres series at PNC Park, and sure enough, Marte is back at the top of the lineup for the second game of the four game series against the Friars. The Pirates’ lineup gets a lot better with Marte returning; Jose Tabata has been doing an excellent job filling in, but Marte is a game-changer.
In 125 games in 2013, Marte has a .282/.343/.443 line with a 122 wRC+. He also has 11 home runs and 36 stolen bases. His 10.0 UZR ranks 13 among MLB outfielders and second among left fielders. He leads all National League left fielders in UZR. Essentially, Marte is the best defensive left fielder in the NL. He ranks 26 among all MLB players, with a 4.4 fWAR as well.
Marte returning completely changes the look of the Pirates’ lineup; it adds power, speed and defense. It also deepens the bench with Tabata returning to the fourth outfielder role. The Pirates’ chances of winning the NL Central just got a lot better.