OF Marte benched by Hurdle for lack of hustle
By John Mehno
For the Mirror
PITTSBURGH–Starling Marte’s lack of effort on Sunday earned him a seat on the bench on Monday.
Manager Clint Hurdle sat Marte out of Monday’s game against the Atlanta Braves to express his dissatisfaction with Marte’s lack of hustle in Sunday’s extra-inning victory over the Chicago Cubs.
In the third inning Sunday, Marte hit a slow roller down the third base line. He slipped and fell getting out of the batters box, then went down the line slowly.
Fans booed, and Hurdle waited for Marte to return to the dugout. Marte used one of the other stairwells and avoided Hurdle. TV cameras caught Francisco Cervelli talking with Marte after the play, and Hurdle said other players confronted Marte as well.
Marte was absent from Monday’s lineup, replaced in center field by Adam Frazier. Hurdle called Marte into the office for a closed-door meeting.
“He slipped and fell,” Hurdle said. “I thought there could have been a better effort to finish the play. So did the fans.”
Hurdle noted that fans forgave Marte after last season’s 80-game suspension for failing a steroids test.
“He’s gotten back in the fans’ good graces after what he’s gone through,” Hurdle said. “They’ve accepted him. There was a disappointment from them yesterday, for sure.
“We just encouraged him. Effort. It’s always about effort. Once you get back up on your feet, run. He’s got a gift, a skill, speed. It’s going to show up every day in different ways. Use it.”
Hurdle wasn’t much happier with Marte’s failure to get into a rundown between third and home in the seventh inning. Marte gave up on the play and was tagged out. Marte had been instructed to stay at third if a ball was hit in the infield.
David Freese appeared to be angry with Marte’s actions and Hurdle said, “There was a line of people lined up behind Freese and it included me.”
Even though he may have been out anyway, Hurdle said Marte had an obligation to try to force the issue.
“Don’t quit on a play,” Hurdle said. “It’s disappointing.”
Marte took questions through interpreter Mike Gonzalez and said he didn’t run after slipping because he was concerned about a possible injury.
“Marte completely understands,” Gonzalez said of Hurdle’s being upset that Marte didn’t run hard to first.
“I’m just trying to be safe, to be healthy for the rest of the season and I didn’t want to risk it,” Marte said via Gonzalez.
Regarding the rundown, Marte said, “I gave up on it. Now that I go through the play again, I recognize that if I had gotten in a rundown situation, maybe I would have given an opportunity to my teammates.”
Of Hurdle’s decision to bench him, Marte said, “It’s a decision that our manager made and I respect it. I don’t have a say so over that.”
Hurdle pinned the blame on third base coach Joey Cora for Gregory Polanco’s inability to score on a fly ball in Sunday’s game.
Polanco stayed at third base on the medium fly in the seventh inning. The throw to the plate by Kyle Schwarber was well off the mark, and Polanco would have scored easily.
“That’s on the coach and not the player,” Hurdle said. “Joey would be the first one to say he should have sent him.”
Hurdle said it was out of character for the usually aggressive Cora, and the decision was especially troubling given the Pirates’ inability to score runs in the Cubs series.
Kevin Newman had appeared in games as a punch runner and defensive replacement. He got his first start on Monday, playing second base as Josh Harrison was out with a hamstring problem.
Harrison was injured in Sunday’s game and would have come out of the game if it had gone beyond the 11th inning.
Left-handed reliever Steven Brault was recalled from Class AAA Indianapolis and Buddy Boshers was sent down.
Boshers did not pitch in a game with the Pirates.
Mehno can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org