Clint Hurdle benches Starling Marte for lack of effort

September 7, 2018
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Pirates center fielder Starling Marte returns to the dugout after a base-running blunder against the Cubs Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018, at PNC Park.

At a time when the Pittsburgh Pirates need singular focus and all of their best hitters in the lineup, center fielder Starling Marte was benched Monday night for the game against the Atlanta Braves.

And what’s most disappointing from manager Clint Hurdle’s perspective is the demotion stemmed from a lack of effort during Sunday’s game against the Chicago Cubs.

Marte, who is hitting .172 in his past 14 games, slipped in the batter’s box after hitting a ground ball to third base in the third inning. But he jogged to first base, making the play easier for the Cubs’ David Bote.

“I thought there could have been better effort just to finish the play,” Hurdle said. “So did the fans. First time I heard the fans. He’s worked his way back into good graces with the fans (after an 80-game suspension last year for PED use).

“I encouraged him, effort. It’s always about effort. Once you get back up on your feet, run. He’s got a gift and a skill, speed. It can show up every day and can beat you so many different ways. Use it.”

In the sixth inning, Marte broke from third base on David Freese’s grounder to first baseman Anthony Rizzo when he was told not to go. Again, he was an easy out after failing to get in a rundown that would have allowed Freese to get to second base.

“For whatever reason, you wander off the base, and there’s not an effort to get out of it. That’s disappointing as well,” Hurdle said.

What’s worse, his teammates noticed, Hurdle said.

“There were a number of guys who encouraged him and challenged him when he got back in the dugout,” he said.

Marte said he didn’t hear from his teammates, but, through interpreter Mike Gonzalez, he talked about his postgame conversation with Hurdle.

“The conversation was basically the way that I ran to first,” he said. “Him just pointing out, ‘I understand you slipped, but I would like to see some effort running down to first.’

“I completely understand the manager’s point of view.”

Marte, who was on the disabled list earlier this season with an oblique injury, said he was trying to avoid another injury.

“Sometimes when you slip and you try to force it, you can pull an injury,” he said. “I’m just trying to be safe right now, trying to be healthy for the rest of the season. I didn’t want to risk it.”

He said he “gave up” on the rundown play after he saw Gregory Polanco had reached third.

“Now that I go though the play again,” Marte said, “I recognize if I had gotten myself in a rundown situation, maybe I would have given an opportunity to my other teammates.”

Marte said he respects Hurdle’s decision to take him out of the lineup.

“I don’t have any say-so over that. I’m just going to submit to it,” he said.

Adam Frazier started in center field Monday and batted in Marte’s customary No. 2 spot in the order. Frazier is hitting .390 since returning from Triple-A Indianapolis on July 25.

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