Maybe he was right after all. Pittsburgh Pirates' outfielder Starling Marte told Dejan Kovacevic that he was fine before Monday's game against the Chicago Cubs.
"For sure," Marte said. "I'm Fine." After an 0 for 3 performance at the plate Sunday in a 1-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, Marte extended his slump to a 0 for 23 slide.
Prior to Tuesday, Marte hadn't hit successfully since May 29 — a 6-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. On Tuesday, though, Marte put all the struggles behind him.
After all, he was fine all along. Marte went 3 for 4 with a pair of RBIs and a stolen base in Pittsburgh's 6-2 win over the Cubs.
"It was fun to watch him," manager Clint Hurdle said about Marte in his press conference. "Fun to watch him swing the bat with some athleticism. It was a good game for him to regain some confidence."
Marte entered the 2014 season coming off his first full-season playing in the big leagues. He held his own as the everyday left fielder and helped the Pirates reach the playoffs for the first time in 21 years.
He hit .281 in 135 games with 12 home runs and 10 triples. Marte also showcased his speed on the base paths with 41 stolen bases. Even in the field, his speed is a necessity. He committed just seven errors playing in the spacious left field at PNC Park where the dimensions are 325-feet down the line, 389-feet at the fence and 410-feet by the bullpen in left-center field.
Along with MVP center fielder Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates outfield is regarded as one of the most valuable in baseball because of their range and ground they cover.
Marte's strong play in 2013 earned him a six-year contract extension worth $31 million. The direct results of that long-term investment haven't paid dividends for the Pirates quite yet. However, a confidence-building game like Monday's may be what Marte needs in turn things around.
Having a friend in right field won't hurt matters, either.
Late Monday night the Pirates announced the call up of prized prospect Gregory Polanco. Marte's fellow Dominican Republic countryman is among the top players at the Triple-A level.
Polanco is tearing the International League apart with the Indianapolis Indians. He was sporting a .347 batting average with seven home runs, 42 RBIs and 15 stolen bases for the minor league team whose record is 37-27.
The long-awaited promotion for Polanco isn't all fine and dandy for Pittsburgh as it came at a price. Second baseman Neil Walker was summoned to the 15-day disabled list after undergoing appendix surgery on Monday. Walker was batting .280 and leading the team with 239 plate appearances.
In his place will likely be Josh Harrison. He has dazzled in his position in right field with a .289 batting average so far. He can easily make the transition from the outfield to the infield.
Marte's job is safe in left field, however he was benched for four games last week to figure out his difficulties at the plate. If he doesn't perform, especially with Walker out for at least two weeks, the Pirates could be in trouble as they try to find their winning ways.
Pittsburgh boasts a 30-33 record and just leaped the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Central Division standings. The Pirates sit 7.5 games back of the first place Milwaukee Brewers, who recently took two of three at PNC Park.
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