Marte Is Ready To Rebound

Pittsburgh Pirates' Starling Marte (6) steals second base ahead of the throw to Atlanta Braves shortstop Johan Camargo, right, during the sixth inning of a spring baseball exhibition game, Monday, March 5, 2018, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Starling Marte is looking ahead to 2018 on the rebuilding Pittsburgh Pirates after missing half of last season because of a failed drug test.

A first-time All-Star outfielder in 2016, Marte sat out from April 18-July 17 last year while serving a suspension for a positive test for the steroid Stanozonol. He hit .275 with seven homers, 31 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 77 games, down from .311 with nine homers, 46 RBIs in 2016, when he had a career-best 47 steals and earned his second straight Gold Glove.

“I’m coming into this season with a brand-new mentality,” Marte said through a translator. “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.”

After reaching the playoffs three straight times, the Pirates finished below .500 for a second straight season. They traded five-time All-Star Andrew McCutchen and ace Gerrit Cole, and Marte is being shifted from left to fill the void in center left by McCutchen’s absence.

Marte began last season in center and McCutchen in right, and McCutchen moved back to the center when Marte was banned. Manager Clint Hurdle kept him there when Marte returned.

“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,” 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.”

Advanced metrics say Marte is a better defensive outfielder than McCutchen, the 2013 NL MVP.

“He has always been so respectful of Andrew that he hasn’t really let it out how much he wants to play center and how excited he is for this opportunity,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. “But center field is his, and we’re excited for him to go own that.”

Marte’s batting average and .712 OPS last year were the lowest marks of his big league career.

“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.”

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SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had four singles in his spring training debut for the Toronto Blue Jays, a 9-3 win at the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday.

NATIONALS 8, METS 5

Noah Syndergaard struck out his last seven batters, allowing two hits over 3 1/3 scoreless innings in his third start for New York.

PHILLIES 7, YANKEES 6

Luis Severino allowed an unearned run over 3 1/3 innings in his first start, Didi Gregorius hit a two-run homer and Giancarlo Stanton had a two-run single. Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman struck out two in the fourth.

CARDINALS 5, MARLINS 4

St. Louis ace Carlos Martinez made his second start, allowing one run and five hits in four innings while striking out four.

RAYS 6, RED SOX 6

Boston’s J.D. Martinez had three hits, including an RBI double, while Xander Bogaerts added two hits and also had a run-scoring double.

PIRATES 8, TIGERS 3

Jordan Zimmermann gave up three runs and five hits in 3 1/3 innings, striking out five. David Freese hit his first home run, a two-run drive off Zimmermann. Francisco Cervelli had two hits for the Pirates.

ASTROS 6, BRAVES 4

Scott Kazmir made his third start for the Braves, giving up two runs and four hits in three innings.

CUBS 10, PADRES 4

Ben Zobrist had his first hit after a late spring training start and scored a run for Chicago.

RANGERS 5, WHITE SOX (SS) 4

Chicago ace James Shields allow3ed one run and three hits over four innings in his spring training debut.

ROYALS 12, WHITE SOX (SS) 0

Whit Merrifield tripled and doubled, driving in two runs for Kansas City, while Jorge Soler hit his fourth home run, a solo shot.

DIAMONDBACKS 11

BREWERS 6

Manny Pina hit his first two home runs and had three hits and four RBIs for Milwaukee. Steven Souza Jr. had his first two hits and drove in three runs for the Diamondbacks.

ATHLETICS 7, ANGELS 3

Oakland ace Kendall Graveman allowed three hits, three hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings, leaving his ERA at 12.00.

ROCKIES 3, REDS 2

Billy Hamilton was hitless in two at-bats and is 0 for 16. Kyle Freeland, hoping to earn a rotation slot, allowed one run, three hits and two walks in three innings.