Marte’s return imminent

PITTSBURGH — Starling Marte could be back in the Pirates lineup for this afternoon’s 4:05 game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Marte, who’s been on the disabled list with a strained right oblique muscle, went through a full workout Friday afternoon and reported no problems.

If he continues to feel good today, the Pirates will probably activate him.

“He went through a full-blown workout,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s hit spin, he’s run the bases. We’ll see how he comes in tomorrow.”

If Marte comes back, the Pirates will have to clear a roster spot for him. Hurdle declined to discuss that, other than saying, “We’ll have another decision to make.”

The issue is what to do with rookie Austin Meadows, who has swung a hot bat since he was recalled to replace Marte on the roster a week ago. He had another multiple hit game Friday.

The most logical move would be to send Jose Osuna back to Class AAA Indianapolis, where he could play regularly. He is learning to play outfield and third base to augment his natural position of first base.

That would free the Pirates to keep Meadows and play him in right field over slumping Gregory Polanco.

How long could Meadows stay? As long as he keeps hitting. He’s shown no signs of being intimidated by the major league environment so far.

Kontos is out

Reliever George Kontos was recently removed from his role as the bullpen’s primary set-up man.

On Friday he was removed from the roster, designated for assignment to clear a roster spot so Joe Musgrove could be activated to make his first start of the season.

Kontos, who was a plus addition last season when he was claimed off waivers from the San Francisco Giants, never got untracked this year.

“George has not been able to replicate the level of performance that we saw from him last year,” Hurdle said. “He was a stabilizer for our bullpen last year when we were in an unstable situation.”

Kontos, who turns 33 next month, pitched in 15 games for the Pirates last season after joining the team on Aug. 5.

He had a 1-1 record, one save, a 1.84 earned run average and 0.818 WHIP.

Kontos started this season as the Pirates’ eighth-inning specialist, the last link to closer Felipe Vazquez.

He pitched himself out of that role and didn’t show any improvement when pitching in lower pressure situations.

“He has not been able to re-create the execution level of the pitches nor the command,” Hurdle said.

Kontos was 2-3 with a 5.03 ERA and 1.424 WHIP. He was scored upon in five of his last six appearances, posting a 10.13 ERA in those games. Opponents had a 1.164 OPS against him.

While he was failing, the Pirates were getting strong work from rookie relievers Edgar Santana and Richard Rodriguez. Rather than send either of them to the minor leagues and give Kontos more time to correct his problems, the Pirates opted to drop Kontos.

“This was a baseball decision,” Hurdle said.

Kontos said that he expects to find another opportunity.

“I haven’t forgotten how to play baseball,” he said. “I’m still a competitor and still have a lot left. I would imagine someone will take a shot on a guy who’s been around, knows how to pitch and has had, in my opinion, quite a bit of success in the big leagues.”

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com.

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