Major League Baseball announced on Tuesday that Starling Marte a centerfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates was given an 80-game suspension effective immediately and without pay for violating MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
The announcement was a huge blow to the Pirates since the club does not have that much depth and plays in one of the league’s toughest divisions the National League Central.
The Commissioner’s office said that Marte had tested positive for the performance enhancing drug Nandrolone. Marte, who is 28, can return some time after the All-Start break but is not eligible to play in the postseason if Pittsburgh qualifies.
Pittsburgh’s front office learned of the suspension of their center fielder on Monday, but teammates were not informed until Tuesday, when the player addressed the entire team and apologized. Gregory Polanco described the situation as heartbreaking.
He said Marte was crying when he spoke to his teammates. However, Polanco added that the team must move forward without Marte, strive for the goals it has and fight through the period Marte is sidelined.
Pittsburgh this season moved veteran center fielder Andrew McCutchen to right field and will now move him back into center in Marte’s absence.
Without a fourth outfielder on the current roster, Pittsburgh will use a number of players to fill right field, one of which will be Adam Frazier. Jose Osuna, who played well during spring training, will also play there. Osuna had been playing in Triple-A but was recalled to take the spot left vacant on the roster by Marte.
Before Marte’s suspension, Pittsburgh already was without the services of Jung Ho Kang one of the team’s best hitters. Kang is currently on the team’s restricted list and is awaiting his work visa back home in South Korea after an arrest in the offseason for driving while under the influence, which was the third time since 2009 he has had the same charge against him.
Marte’s suspension further weakens a Pittsburgh lineup and its defense in the outfield, both that were expected to be team strengths that would help to support a young pitching staff.
Marte has become one of baseball’s emerging stars, an excellent defender with great base running skills. Last season he played in his first All-Star Game and won a second consecutive Gold Glove in left field, which prompted Pittsburgh to realign its outfield to feature him more prominently by moving him to center field.
Thus far in 13 games to start the season, Marte had a .241 batting average, 2 home runs and 7 RBIs.