Pirates OF Marte seeks redemption after tarnished 2017 campaign
Starling Marte sees the 2018 campaign as his personal redemption tour.
The Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder missed half of the 2017 season due to a failed drug test and is eager to turn the page.
"I'm coming into this season with a brand-new mentality," the 29-year-old Marte told reporters through a translator on Thursday. "It's a mentality to help my team like never before, to be the best teammate I can be and to be healthy to continue to be the best Marte that I am."
Marte made the National League All-Star team in 2016 when he batted .311 with a career-best 47 steals while also winning his second straight Gold Glove award.
But a few weeks into the 2017 season, Marte was suspended for 80 games after a positive test for the banned steroid nandrolone. Not only were the Pirates without one of their better players, but it was a tough time for Marte with his reputation being tarnished.
When he returned in mid-July, his timing was off and his team's fortunes were sinking. Marte batted just .275 with 21 steals in 77 games and Pittsburgh finished below .500 for the second straight season.
"These pitchers, they were already all warmed up," Marte said. "They were ready to face me. They had been playing through the whole season. I came in kind of cold, and it took me a little bit to be able to adjust.
"However, when I started getting warmed up and I came into my rhythm, that's when Marte came out -- the true Marte -- and I feel warm and I'm looking forward going into this 2018 season."
There also was the offseason overhaul in which face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen was dealt to the San Francisco Giants and pitching ace Gerrit Cole was shipped to the Houston Astros.
Marte was stunned by the McCutchen trade, but the Pirates see one advantage from the deal -- their best outfielder (Marte) now will be a full-time center fielder as opposed to occupying a corner spot.
"I believe he wants to go out and play the game the way he's capable of, and that's going to be pretty special in center field," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's going to be special on the bases. He can do things at the plate that are significant to help our club."
Marte has a career batting average of .288 with 65 homers, 266 RBIs and 181 steals in parts of six seasons with the Pirates.
--Field Level Media
© Copyright Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved. The information contained in this news report may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Reuters Ltd.