The Pittsburgh Pirates have been dealt a significant blow as Major League Baseball announced an 80-game suspension for Pirates center fielder Starling Marte.
Marte tested positive for Nandrolone. He is hitting .241 with 2 home runs and 7 RBI.
The team already without Jung Ho Kang for the foreseeable future due to off-field issues, now has to battle through without Marte for 80 games in what is pretty much a lost season for Marte as the 28 year old will be ineligible for the postseason if the Pirates make it.
Marte gave a usual ‘I didn’t know’ what I was taking in a released statement.
“In this very difficult moment I apologize to my family, the Pittsburgh Pirates, my teammates, my fans, and baseball in general,” Marte said. “Neglect and lack of knowledge have led me to this mistake with the high price to pay of being away from the field that I enjoy and love so much. With much embarrassment and helplessness, I ask for forgiveness for unintentionally disrespecting so many people who have trusted in my work and have supported me so much. I promise to learn the lesson that this ordeal has left me. God bless you.”
Major League Baseball doesn’t mess around anymore when it comes to failing a test for steroids.
First-time offence = 80 games, second-time offence = 162 games and a third time offence is a life time ban.
“The Pittsburgh Pirates fully support MLB’s Joint Drug Agreement, including the very tough penalties for violations of its prohibitions,” Pirates president Frank Coonelly said in a statement. “We are disappointed that Starling put himself, his teammates and the organization in this position. We will continue to fight for the division title with the men who are here and will look forward to getting Starling back after the All-Star break.”
Where do the Pirates go from here, losing one of their most valuable hitters in Marte?
The more pressing question might be how much worse can the outfield defense get? It was bad already with Marte in center.
The Pirates initial move is putting Andrew McCutchen back in centerfield where he will start tonight. McCutchen last season produced an MLB worst minus-28 in defensive runs saved as the Pirates starting center fielder and he’s looked just as bad in right field this season.
Despite riding an 8 game hitting streak, and while it’s still early, McCutchen at the plate has also been a carry over from last season. He’s hitting 250/.291/.423 in 52 plate appearances so far in 2017.
One option the Pirates are shooting down for now is bringing up top prospect Austin Meadows. Pirates GM Neal Huntington came out quickly after the Marte suspension to say Meadows is not ready for the Majors. Meadows has played into that organizational belief with a poor start this season in Triple-A, producing a slash line of 202/.280/.417 through 186 plate appearances.
The Pirates will now go with a committee of right fielders in Adam Frazier, Jose Osuna, John Jaso and Josh Harrison.